I had my first real session of occupational therapy for my wrist today (my “fake” session was the other day, an evaluation thing), and while I was waiting in line at the reception desk, I noticed that the women at the desk were particularly unhelpful and rather . . . well, snippish. They seemed to be a hair away from eye rolling and those heavy exaggerated sighs usually reserved for the deliberately obtuse. However, the people they were waiting on had (to my mind) reasonable questions: did you say a left at the double elevators after the right at the staircase and the right at the second hallway on the left? Barely contained eye twitching and breath holding, and a short, “yes!”. I wanted to explain to these long suffering desk sitting worker women that although they had crawled out of primordial slime and immediately slithered behind that desk and had not really moved since, this is a new environment to the patients and a little patience and understanding would go a long way toward making BOTH sides of the desk happier. But I didn’t. I thought there was a good chance I’d be bitch slapped.
Besides, I know all too well how they feel. There is something about knowing something very well that makes you forget that others don’t know it and that it is no reflection on their intellect that they don’t know it; furthermore, these “morons” do have a right to live and breathe just because they aren’t aware of some bit of field specific knowledge or haven’t meandered though your idea of “common sense” in a split second while they feel off kilter because they’re out of their element. The trouble with that knowing something too well thing is that things that seem like common knowledge or common sense to us really aren’t common knowledge or common sense. How could a patient, new to a facility, possibly find their way down unmarked labyrinthine hospital passages? They couldn’t. And just because they can’t understand somewhat complex directions spat out like machine gun fire, by rote fast and sharp, doesn’t mean they didn’t listen or they are forgetful or they are stupid. Because we have one set of skills or knowledge doesn’t mean that not having that same set makes someone else less . . . intelligent, worldly, common sensical, or whatever we peer down from on high to determine they must be.
I used to work the front desk at a hotel, and I remember getting a bit frustrated when people would ask me about the “best” restaurants (the hotel wasn’t upscale enough to have a concierge, who would actually be able to help them). There I was 21 (okay, 19 with a fake I.D.) and earning minimum wage: my idea of a good meal was the garnish in my cocktails. Or a Whataburger at 4 a.m. So I would slowly and painfully drag out the “chamber of commerce book” (what we called the three ring binder with all the menus, fliers, etc. for area attractions) and tell them to take a look at that. With a “how the hell would I know?” shrug, to boot. Yep, I was fresh from the primordial ooze and had been at the job for an eternity (it seemed) and could have cared less if they enjoyed their meal. I deserved a good many bitch slaps.
And as they say, what comes around goes around. I’m in Vegas last spring, and it’s oh, I don’t know like 3 a.m. (not that it matters or you can even tell in the casino), and we were a bit hungry, so we wandered over to some handily located restaurant. It was down a deserted hallway, and we could hear the noise from the slots sort of echo-ey bouncing off the walls, and when we finally got to the front of the restaurant there was a red velvet rope and slightly askew sign urging us to wait to be seated. It was late. No other gamblers (er, customers) in sight. And the hostess looking person (she had a name tag) was talking to a security guard looking person (he had a shiny star and a squawky walkie talkie), and she didn’t stop talking to him. And they talked about a party for a while and then about some dress she saw a woman wearing when she got her nails done that day. We stood there. I mean she knew we were there, there couldn’t be too many reasons we’d be there, so her continued refusal to greet or seat us baffled me; perhaps, thought moi, we’re supposed to take the hint and just sit down? It seemed possible, even likely as she and the guard looking guy kept gabbing away. Eventually, feeling a bit silly just standing there and listening to this inane chatter, I asked if we should seat ourselves. To which she responded by pointing to the sign and saying lethargically AND snidely (a good trick that) she’d “be right with us” (couldn’t we read?, the subtext of her body language, tone, and statement scream-queried). Uh, yeah, could read, thank you. In fact, there were all manner of things someone who’d once been in the hospitality industry could do, knew to do, but I didn’t do it any of it. That hostess looking girl had been me in my former life. Bitch slapping self at this point.
Those lists that fly around about how stupid people are when they call for tech support, for example, are mostly funny, but some of the questions on there seem . . . well, reasonable to me. Just as some of the questions students ask are reasonable (and some, as I’ve blogged before are stupid; yes, Virginia, there are stupid questions) but don’t seem so reasonable because the teacher knows the material SO well and forgets that students don’t come to college with the same level of preparedness and that some things are not self-evident, even if they seem so when they’ve been absorbed into our psyche and consciousness. They sure begin to seem so when we’ve been doing what we do for so (too?) long. I don’t really have a point, I suppose, but I would urge you, no matter your profession, to go easy on people, not to be so quick to judge and find someone wanting, that could be you standing there one day, feeling stupid for asking a perfectly reasonable question.
Of course I got my title from Forrest Gump; how appropriate.