Sunday, December 17, 2006

Vast Media Conspiracy.

It must be.

The New York Times must be owned and directed by some extraordinarily saavy conservative think tank, with the express goal of making coastal progressive types hateable. Because some of their articles serve no purpose but to make wealthy urbanites seem like effete, clueless assholes (shitbird one-upsmanship, etc, tm Paul V.)

This article in the Sunday Times could not possibly have been written as a genuine piece of journalism. It's about wealthy New Yorkers, who feel terribly oppressed by having to make conversation with baristas, doormen, masseuses, and others. Apparently, instead of developing adult strategies to extract themselves from conversation, or just learning to enjoy human interaction, these poor, set-upon people have had to endure banter from service professionals, for years now.

"THERE are days when Shannon Lanier, a producer at CBS Television, is too tired to have conversations with his doormen, all of whom are brimming with stories, none of which are brief. Sometimes, on his way up to his Bronx apartment, he dashes by them, pretending to be in a hurry. Occasionally he acts as if he’s on his cellphone.

“You don’t want to blow them off, because they’re nice and helpful, but the last thing you want to do is stand there and have a conversation when you’re so close to being home,” he said. It’s especially bad during this time of year. “They’re definitely extra chatty because they’re trying to get that holiday tip,” Mr. Lanier said."

Poor Mr. Lanier. I wonder if he didn't know his building had a doorman, before he moved in. And now, every day, he's accosted by having to make some kind of brief conversation. Mr. Lanier even understands that as a tipped professional, the doorman must depend on some form of individual gratuity as part of his compensation. And yet Mr. Lanier doesn't know what to do. Mr. Lanier is upset. And disturbed. Why don't these proles know their place?

"many people find it annoying to be cornered by a loquacious stranger, especially one whom they’re paying.

Lauren Booth, a legal recruiter in Manhattan, said that the barista at her Starbucks loves to yak away while whipping up peppermint mocha lattes and Guatemalan-blend coffees for his customers. He once told Ms. Booth a lengthy tale about his son finding his hidden Christmas presents early; he regularly gives her unsolicited advice about rearing her infant daughter; and he recently brought in pictures from his vacation and made her flip through the stack as he reminisced.

Though she had to get to work, Ms. Booth felt compelled to listen. “You can’t be rude to him,” she said. “I drink only decaf and if I make him mad, he might give me caffeine and I’ll be shaking all day.

Oh, Ms. Booth. It's tragic. Have you considered, perhaps, not going to Starbucks? Because, I'm sure, as a "legal recruiter" you have enough money to buy an espresso machine and make your own goddamned decaf drinks. In silence.

As a former Barista, this is what I know about Ms. Booth from that paragraph:
  • 1. She sucks so bad.
  • 2. Since she is "held captive" by that savage barista, I know that she's not getting a plain decaf coffee or tea. She must be getting a drink from the bar. Something that takes a while, and makes her wait anyway. Possibly a decaf latte. Almost definitely nonfat. I bet no foam, too. (No foam people mostly suck, with very few exceptions. They think that the addition of foam just takes up space in the cup, and "that's how they screw ya")
  • 3. She feels victimized easily. This is the kind of woman who, if the waitress forgets that she wanted her spinach steamed and no skin on her chicken breast, slumps in her chair and pouts, tips ten percent, and then, three days later, calls the manager.

Ms. Booth, make your own beverage if you don't want the human interaction that comes with it. If you'd feel too put-upon, making your own coffee in the morning, then perhaps order something that gets you back on your way sooner. If neither of these solutions appeal to you, maybe try acting like an adult and say "You know, I appreciate the conversation, but ..."

"Melissa Hobley, a publicist at Coburn Communication in Manhattan, said she has a high tolerance for talkative people, given that she is one herself. But she recently met her match in her new housekeeper, who likes to talk incessantly about everything from her own life to where Ms. Hobley shops. Even her housekeeper’s notes are lengthy.

“She’s sweet, so it wasn’t offensive,” Ms. Hobley said, “but it felt like a tornado had just come in the room.”"

Poor Ms. Hobley. She has to make time to talk to a servant. Nothing makes it more clear than Ms. Hobley's tragic situation, that this isn't about being pressed for time. This isn't about being tired on the way into the building. This isn't about being scared to piss off the all-powerful barista who might give you caffeine (watch out, maybe he'll slip some trans-fats in there, too, and you'll die.) this is about not wanting to be bothered to be pleasant or human to people who are below you.

Poor Ms. Hobley. Poor Ms. Booth. Poor Mr. Lanier. They have to interact with people who make less money than they do. They may have to listen to stories that aren't immediately interesting to them. They may have to endure some momentary disruption of their schedule on a regular basis.

If you don't want to interact with human beings, then don't contract for their services. Period. The end. Make your own coffee, open your own door, wax your own vulva, cut your own hair.

Or, if you really, really need that coffee, that spanking-clean mons, that whatever-the-hell doormen do, then campaign for a universal living wage, like poor, crazy Grace Ross. If nobody needs tips to survive, then maybe baristas won't have to guess how to ingratiate themselves, and will focus instead on delivering quality beverages instead of social stroking.


Roger Williams said...

As a quintessential free-market capitalist, I have a different perspective: cash bonuses to the proles for doing their jobs with a minimum of chatter.

While I'm not a wealthy New Yorker, I can definitely empathize - to a degree. I hate it when people try to use ostensibly professional interactions as an opportunity to talk about personal lives that I don't care about. Saying "you know, I appreciate the conversation, but ..." invariably leads to bruised feelings, so you just have to suck it up.

HoboHermit said...

Basically, I'm pretty much against you being so cold and mean to customer service personnel.

I hate pickles, sir. I hate them on hamburgers and I hate them on cheeseburgers. However, a great majority of people enjoy pickles on their hamburgers. Pickles on hamburgers have thus become a convention in fast food. If I do not want pickles on my hamburgers, I have to ask for them without pickles, or else suck it up and deal with having pickles. Or I can make my own hamburger.

Roger Williams said...

"Customer service" is a large part of my job too, and I like to think I'm doing people a favor by not yammering about my life - especially about my Maoist parrot. I'm not against people talking to each other in business related transactions, but I'm against injecting forced chumminess and chatter I don't care about.