1.5
June 11, 2020

I had to get Laid Off my Customer Service Job to realize I don’t actually “Hate People.”

I was just really tired.

Like many people working in the service industry, in restaurants, cafés, and retail, I have recently lost my job due to the coronavirus outbreak. Seeing as it is a nonessential business, my boss had to, unfortunately, close the doors to both downtown locations of his coffee shop and lay off our small teams indefinitely, or until it is safe enough to leave the house and actually be around people.

Generally speaking, I actually do like working. I am not someone who likes to be idle, a fact that I attribute to my parents always pushing me to strive for more, and for better, as I was growing up. As much as I enjoy leisurely activities, I also like being productive, and succeeding at my goals and ambitions.

However, getting fired actually came as a blessing in disguise. The past few months at work have been dreadful, to put it mildly. I would be miserable on the commute to my job, and absolutely drained on my way back home. I found no enjoyment in being around people, or listening to great music, or being surrounded by the pleasant smell of good coffee and pastries. Instead, I constantly found myself rolling my eyes at annoying customers, quietly losing my patience, or complaining to my coworkers.

The phrase “I hate people” was tossed around like a mantra, something to cling to when we had to pinpoint what exactly made us so impatient and irritable at work.

Being at work, leaving the place feeling exhausted and moody, turned me into someone I didn’t like. I was never extroverted, but I never had misanthropic tendencies either. My job made me reach new levels of exasperation at humans who I previously never experienced.

Fast-forward to one week into quarantine, and my attitude started to change. I smiled more, I walked around my neighborhood (while maintaining a safe two-meter distance from others, of course), and noticed small wonders of human nature. I noticed people kindly letting each other pass, I noticed friendly nods, even polite conversation now and then, strangers telling you to “stay safe and take care of yourself.” I thought to myself, perhaps I was just focusing on the bad stuff? Perhaps our team was tired from the long, winter months, and was simply feeding off each other’s negativities?

This thought quickly dissipated when I went grocery shopping and, once again, came face-to-face with the rudeness that retail employees have to deal with on a daily basis.

I realized that I don’t actually hate people. I just hate being treated condescendingly by customers.

This seems like a matter-of-fact statement, and yet it doesn’t stop so many people from acting like complete cavemen the second they enter a store or a restaurant. It is astounding to see how many customers act as if they grew up on a different planet where manners and common decency are an unknown concept.

Which begs the question: what exactly makes the friendly neighbor who smiles at you turn into a harasser when talking to a grocery store employee? Why is it that the same lady who wishes you to “have a good day” will completely ignore the existence of a cashier or clerk besides absentmindedly swiping her card (and forgetting to tip)? What is it in our society that allows people to treat those we now consider “essential workers” as lesser citizens? Is it their wages?

Surely those who restock our produce and bag our groceries are significantly more important during this pandemic than CEOs. And yet I have trouble imagining anyone strutting to the top floor of an office building and yelling at an executive.

I always feel horrible when I see an employee being mistreated like they’re not even human but are simply part of the establishment they work at. But I also feel horrible for myself when I’m at work and someone raises their voice at me, or ignores me, or blatantly insults me out of nowhere. I feel powerless and angry, and I shouldn’t have to.

If you’re dealing with issues, take them out in therapy, not in a public space on people who can’t answer back because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. Call me crazy, but I think it’s inhumane to have a power trip on someone who’s providing you with a service.

So, once this is over and we’re out of lockdown, I hope I’ll be relaxed enough to brush off any negative interaction I’ll undoubtedly encounter at work.

But a word of advice for those who still think it’s okay to act superior to customer service employees in any industry: next time you decide to not act like a decent human being, someone just might accidentally make your much needed morning coffee decaf, and you’ll deserve it.

~

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