Monday, May 6, 2013

I have the right to speak


When I am not writing, I am supporting my writing by working in customer service.  Now, it may come as a shock that one who dedicates her life to writing what she wants to write, as opposed to writing what someone else wants written, would need to find material support in ways other than her writing, so I'll give you a moment to process that shock.

Working in customer service can be stressful at times.  It is certainly a far cry from the utopian vision of a quiet little hermitage in which to focus all day, every day, on communing with the Muse within and bringing forth great works of wisdom.

However, working in customer service also provides some valuable insights into people and personalities and human nature, insights which come in handy not only for writing great works of wisdom but for gaining insights into oneself and one's experiences that provide greater clarity, perspective, and confidence in everyday life.

Most people are a pleasure to work with.  They treat customer service workers as fellow human beings and conduct business as an exchange between equals.  As, of course, it is.  These are the people who keep us coming back to work, day after day.

But once in a while, there will be a customer who wants to dominate the transaction, especially when they are told something they don't want to hear, such as a policy or legal limitation that affects the transaction in some way.  They treat their position as customer as a bully pulpit, in which the customer service worker has no choice but to bend to the customer's will in abject and groveling submission.

I'm told there are places that provide such services, but generally they are not found in mainstream retail centers in the suburbs.

One of the classic tactics of domination is silencing:  shouting down, interrupting, reprimanding the other person for what they are saying, flat-out telling the other person to shut up.  The message is that the other person does not have the right to say what they want to say.

In a customer service context, communicating information that is in some way related to the transaction at hand, the customer service worker has every right to say what needs to be said, even if it's not what the customer wants to hear.  And we have the right to say what needs to be said without being interrupted or shouted down or otherwise dominated by the customer.  And we have the right to ask you to stop interrupting us and shouting us down.  We'll be happy to listen to what you have to say; you, in turn, need to be willing to let us say what we have to say.

On a deeper level, instances of being shouted down and silenced trigger old messages from childhood, messages many of us undoubtedly heard at one time or another:  You just don't quit.  You just keep speaking up.  When will you learn?

Believe me, I have learned.  And here is what I have learned:

I have the right to speak.  I have the right to be heard.

Others, as well, have the right to speak and to be heard.  And I need to listen as well as speak.

But nobody has, or ever had, the right to silence me.

The day I leave this existence is the day I will stop speaking.

And even then, my voice will continue to be heard.

And no:  I don't quit.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Go to the damn bathroom


Raise your hand if you've ever felt any pressure at work to limit your trips to the bathroom.

That's a lot of hands.

American business culture is effed up in more ways than there are stars in the rural night sky, but few things are more effed up than attempting to regulate people's bodily functions.  Our bodies did not evolve to synchronize themselves with Company Time.  Our bodies do not always conveniently wait until the clock says Break Time before sending a Call of Nature.  Our bodies and our bodily functions are paragons of Internal Self-Direction, utterly indifferent to their impact upon the quarterly P&L Statement.  And some people have a problem with that.

The rationale, to the extent that reason can be said to have anything to do with the way such people run a business, is generally along the lines that "excessive" use of the bathroom wastes time and cuts down on productivity and profits.  Or, in a rare moment of honesty, they might simply admit that they are control freaks who want to ensure that the employees work in a perpetual state of fear and insecurity and feeling as if they have no authority whatsoever over themselves or their work lives.

People do not exist to serve business:  business exists to serve people.  Contrary to what they told you in your economics and business classes in school, the central purpose of a business is not to maximize profits for a handful of shareholders.  The real purpose of business is to meet human need:  to reward the investments and financial risks of the shareholders, yes, but also to provide goods and services that meet the needs of the customers, and also to provide a decent living to the people who are working in the business and creating those profits with their time, talents, and labors.

People need to make a living, and they shouldn't be expected to wreak havoc on their own well-being in order to do so.

You are a human being with dignity and worth.  You are entitled to earn your living in conditions that honor your dignity and worth.  Fundamental to being treated with dignity and worth is the freedom to use the bathroom at will.

Go to the damn bathroom.

If your bladder is full, pee.  If your bowels are moving, poop.  If you have got your period, change your tampon.

And don't ever, ever, ever let anybody, anywhere, in any position, make you feel as if you shouldn't attend to your bodily functions.  The only time there is such a thing as "too much" going to the bathroom is when it involves an underlying medical condition, in which case, go to the damn doctor.

And the damn doctor will probably tell you to drink plenty of fluids and go to the damn bathroom as needed.