"Mama Says, 'Stupid is as Stupid Does'"


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.


10 thoughts on “"Mama Says, 'Stupid is as Stupid Does'"

  1. I am just rolling here! Are we a mood or what? I always tell everyone to remember the little people. You might need a lot of bitch slaps, but I love Ya Chicky, you can vent in my world any time you want. 🙂

  2. Hey Fuzzy,

    This is just such a topical blog to me. I called up the vets yesterday to book marm in to be done and being that this is my first kitten I have had I don’t know the rules regarding these things, and what you have to do before talking your kitten in to be done. After finding an appointment that suited us both the receptionist on the other end of the phone started spirting of all these things that I had to do before bringing her in. She said them all so fast that I only managed to catch the first thing that I had to do and when I asked her to repeat them she near enough tutted down the phone at me. After making her wait on the phone and repeat all the steps that I needed to do whilst I wrote them down I could tell she wasn’t happy. I stil wasn’t sure of one thing when I put the phone down but was frightened to call back and thought I would find out what I needed to know on the internet rather than phone back and talk to the lady of the other end of the phone. She really deserved a bitch slap if anyone did and she would no doubt be the first to have ago at me if I hadn’t obided by the corrent rules.

    Think I have to do the following: Tell me if it sounds right as I know you have three cats.

    1. Don’t feed her after 8pm the night before.
    2. Don’t let her out the night before in case she eats any wildlife.
    3. Don’t let her out the evening she comes back.
    4. Feed her either Chicken, Fish or Scrambles Eggs as her normal food will make her throw up.

  3. Ohh forgot to add don’t know whether its just doctors surgerys over here but the receptionists in them always need a bitch slap over here. Perhaps being a doctors reception you think you are above everyone else maybe who knows. x

  4. “a little patience and understanding would go a long way”. I think you are right on target with that. There’s that old cliche about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes – and I think your blog certainly points that out as you’ve recognized that we’ve probably all deserved to be bitchslapped in dealing with others. I don’t know that there’s an answer to dealing with rude customer service, so I just try to be as non-demanding as possible and trust karma to even the score.

  5. Yay, Pris, SO glad I could make you laugh! And yeah, I was a real brat when I was young, and I guess I still can be, but I hope that I’ve learned and grown a tiny bit since then. So hold the bitch slaps and shower me with that love!! LOL Huggs to you.

    Snuggles, this is the EXACT sort of thing I mean, you have captured that whole attitude of superiority and preciousness that I was trying to convey!! Super there. So it’s time to spay Marm, huh? Well, the first three things sound right; the last I presume is for when she returns home after the surgery? And did they say anything about water? I had to take up my cats water at midnight before their surgeries. Do call back, though, their crappy attitude is nothing to be afraid of; it comes from a place that has nothing to do with, really. They’re just very unhappy, I think. At least I was, and isn’t it funny how we do that? Imagine someone else feels as we do because they are acting as we did in a similar sitch. But either way, call up and get the instructions straight in your head; Marm is more important than this snippy receptionist any day. Huggs and all good luck to you and Marm. Let me know how she does.

    I know just what you mean about trusting in karma to “even the score,” Em, so succinctly put. And I don’t know how to deal with rude customer service, either, at least not without getting rude back or making those implied threats (like asking to speak to someone else or a supervisor). I know we’re supposed to kill/melt them with kindness, and have tried being kind in response. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But it feels good to know I took the high road instead of bitch slapping someone. LOL

  6. Hi Fuzz…

    I spend two weeks each spring teaching, imploring customer service skills to twenty-something’s and then six months enforcing it happens. Never do I have to lift a negative voice! I am so proud of the way these kids react to the public in arguably a more positive atmosphere, but the hotel and restaurant portion can’t be too far away. I teach them to approach the customer before the customer approaches. They are proactive rather than reactive in issues like the choice of restaurants is a supervisory problem in customer service. Have a thirty minute staff meeting just to discuss local eating establishments if that is such a common question. It sounds to me like your nursing staff considers themselves above working with the public. They only work with patients!
    Somebody needs to remind them that we don’t have to go to one particular medical facility. Perhaps they should be reminded that there is competition with better customer service somewhere else. Good, personable employees are hard to find, but organizations dedicated to a full customer service program is even rarer!

  7. Yo. da ranger man has really hit it on the head. Kudos for his teaching and more companies need to take that approach.
    Though I wonder if rudness sometimes comes from their environment. If they were that way all the time why did they get the job in the first place. Yes there can be a hugh number of factors that can affect a persons attitude. Don’t we all have good and bad days that surely must impact our own behavior simply by how we percieve the other person approach to us. It just requirers a more supreme effort on our part on those days to be compassionate with others. Easier said than done on some days. It’s like when I’m fighting getting a painting to do what I want, I just have to bitch slap that paint till it squeals like a pig.

  8. lolol great blog Fuzzy, you hit the nail right on the head. I was in a department store the other day and searching for something. I asked a young assistant which way it was and she rolled her eyes. Actually rolled her eyes! I really did want to slap her. I hate that kind of rudeness. So she told me, half-heartedly and I said in my most sarcastic, brightest voice “Thank you SO much, you’ve been SO helpful” and grinned at her. Ahhh, I loved the look of bewilderment.

  9. I was just thinking about this very topic yesterday at work. I have worked in the insurance industry for over 30 years. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone (very few) knows why insurance rates increase. I cringe everytime someone asks me the same redundant questions over and over. Of course, it is not the same people so they have no idea how many times I am asked.
    I think it would be good for everyone in every industry to take a step back and look through someone else’s eyes before rolling their own.
    You write very nice blogs! Thanks for letting me visit. :0)

  10. That’s so impressive, Gregg! And I think it’s great to do this as part of the training. I think, though, that new employees tend not to suffer from this problem attitude; it comes with time, low pay, exhaustive repetition, and all manner of other factors that may or may not have to do with the job itself. Even so, kudos to you for quality management!! Huggs.

    LOL, Heyman, that image of you bitch slapping your paint until it squeals like a pig . . . too funny! But you’re right of course, we do all have good days and bad days (hell, I have good years and bad ones!), so that’s all part of it, too, on both sides of the equation, actually. I’ve seen customers be awful to perfectly nice secretaries, cashiers, etc. It does go both ways. Huggs.

    Tally. She ROLLED HER EYES at you? I’m appalled. How you restrained yourself, I’ll never know. But your thanks must have been just as sharp as any slap! Good for you!! teehee

    Excellent point, Nancy; it IS easy to lapse into that sense of boredom or frustration with repetition and forget that the person we’re saying this to for the thousandth time that day or week is not the same person! It’s something I really struggle with in my own work, too.
    And you’re more than welcome any time you like!! :))

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