Everyone should have to work one year of customer service. No questions, no complaints. At least one year of serving, hosting, seating, selling tickets, making sandwiches, scooping ice cream and generally facilitating the needs of the public at large.
The world would be a much happier place.
There is a worldwide perception regarding the rudeness of New Yorkers. These kind and gentle tourists come to the Big Apple and find the most unimaginably rude and obnoxious locals completely unwilling to help them. These kind and gentle tourists then return to their hometowns (Iowa?) and tell their friends at PTA meetings how rude everyone was in Times Square.
News Flash: I dare you to find native New Yorkers running around Times Square. When people come to New York to visit, they are immediately on the defensive. They assume that everyone is out to get them, screw them, overcharge them and underserve them so they treat us customer service employees accordingly. And it’s wrong. And not until yesterday, after my third 14 hour solid day of customer service in a row, did it finally get to me.
At the King Tut Discovery Times Square Box Office a woman called me a “piece of shit”.
This certainly isn’t the worst that I’ve been called. Certainly she wasn’t the most angry patron I’ve dealt with. But something about my fatigue, the holidays rushes and just general stress, it made me really sad. It made me depressed, and it really hurt me. I can’t think of a time that I would ever call a complete stranger (traffic road rage aside), someone that has been trying to help me, a “piece of shit”. It was just so venomous. I couldn’t stand it.
This whole situation got me thinking about my past customer service horrors. Ushering at Fela! On Broadway has given me a whole new perspective on racism in this country. As a mostly African and African-American crowd, I’ve been told I was a racist again and again for simply asking people to not take photos or remove their coats from ledges. One woman called me the “white devil” and said I was trying to bring her down. I’ve had people ignore me even as I stand in front of them and speak. I’ve told people to not speak on the phone during the performances and they’ve made additional calls all while looking at me with a ” I Dare You” sort of look.
I don’t have a grand point, I don’t have an epic conclusion here, I just never really thought about the awful way in which we treat each other. So if I have a grand statement here, its to tip your waiters, tip your ushers and to treat people the way you would want to be treated at your place of employment, or as a human being in general. Otherwise we live in a pathetic world and we should just sink New York City and start over like I’ve always wanted to.
The great eastern Snowpocalypse is nearing its horrifying end. New York, Philidelphia and Boston are buried beneath the snow. JFK and Laguardia Airports are now operational and the thousands of weary travelers are making their way home.
I arrived back to New York early this morning, not by Delta Plane, not even by Megabus, both of which I had tickets for but were cancelled, but by America’s staple: The Greyhound. I’ve never taken a Greyhound Bus before, but because of the snow, all Amtrack Trains, Flights and other modes of transportation were booked solid for days. I need to work. I need my money. I have to get back to New York. It was like Home Alone, only without the humor of John Hughes.
The one relief I had was that the Greyhound Bus, according to the website, is outfitted with roomier seats, free Wi-Fi and outlets in which to charge your computer. Their motto is that all of this happens at 55mph. The buses…in my opinion, looked shiny, sexy and beautiful.
No Wi-Fi. No Leg Room. No Outlets. No empty seats. They were serious about it, and I wasn’t ready for it.
I boarded the bus with a faint hesitation, but I was sure, by looking around at the crowd of weary travelers, that it would be fine. I take my seat, the only one left at the back of the bus, bathroom-adjacent, and the blonde-spikey haired guy next to me chomping down on his subway eagerly said “Hi!”. My heart sank. This was going to be a problem.
I noticed very quickly that the spikey-haired guy (later identified as Bryan) was chatting up a 36-year old Russian man with a thick Boston accent in the aisle across from us. Their conversation quickly led me to believe that someone on this bus, was to be murdered by the time we rolled into the Port Authority. The Russian Bostonian was asking Bryan what he would do if he were around when they cruicified Jesus. Bryan didn’t know. There was a homly girl next to us named Chelsea who was on the bus in from Madison, WI. She had mousy brown hair, glasses, a portly physique and had just gotten her braces removed so she brandished a shiny metal retainer across her newly straightened white teeth.
The Russian and Bryan quickly took an interest in Chelsea. The Russian asked her questions. Bryan complimented her hair. The Russian inquired about her having a boyfriend and when she (clearly) replied no, that’s when I knew that these two gentlemen were going to kill Chelsea at their earliest convience. Bryan informed us all that he had been kicked out of his house because he told his parents he was “gayer than Christmas” and so in retalition he stole his mother’s fabulous white scarf, which he now wears all the time. He shook the scarf’s frayed ends into my face and I recoiled. He went back to his subway sandwich and bottle of gatorade and consistent questioning of Chelsea about her pop culture knowledge. Of which she had none because she’s spent most of her life staining wood in her parent’s woodshop instead of watching television.
It was at this point that I realized that Bryan, was tweaking on meth. His demeanor, general appearance, and the bonus that he was gay (meth is huge in the gay community) made me certain that this would be another one of those trips that I should never have taken. Bryan spent the entirity of the journey snapping rubber bands on his wrists and fidgeting in his seat. He spent the rest of the trip fighting on the phone with his sister and listening to the song “Bulletproof” on speaker through his cell phone over and over and over again.
We pulled into a rest stop in some abandoned helltown in Pennsylvania and the driver informed us that we were taking a 15 minute break. An hour and ten minutes later, after all of the passengers had reboarded the bus and had been sitting for at least 30 minutes, we sent out a scout to find out where the driver was. The driver, a 4’10” black woman, was sitting at the table inside the MacDonalds eating her dinner. Our friendly sentinel asked her what the holdup was and she told us that “I let y’all get your food. Now you gonna wait until I get to eatin’ mine”. And that was that. 30 minutes later we rolled away from our hour and a half, 15 minute break.
Things continued on relatively smoothly, some mild flirting between the Russian and his potential victim, homely Chelsea, and after about 4 hours, we pulled into a stop somewhere near Jersey for a quick break. After Bryan, the Russian and Chelsea left to use the restroom, Bryan presumably to get high, I looked to the Brooklyn-Indie Clothing designer guy sitting behind me and remarked, “do you get the feeling those two guys are going to kill her later?”
He looked around for a bit.
“Never mind.” I said and turned around. A moment passed.
“Well at the very least the gay one is gonna do something weird to her body,” he said suddenly.
I laughed just long enough for Bryan and the Russian to reboard the bus. I got off the bus and headed for the gift shop.
A pack of Peanut M’n’Ms, a 4 pack of Tylenol PM and a 4 pack of NyQuil Gel Caps later, I settled back into my seat. Bryan told his sister she was being a “silly bitch” and she needed to “get out of his house. because she is disrespectful.” Bryan apologzied for yelling on the phone and went back to snapping his rubber bands.
Before I passed out from the massive sleeping pill dose, I noticed Bryan going from person to person complimenting them on various aspects of their outfits, features and personalities. He would then offer them a dirty Ferrero Rocher Chocolate and when they refused, he told them that it was a classy candy and that they simply weren’t classy.
I don’t remember much else about the trip. I took the Nyquil. I took all 4 Tylenol PMs and had the pack of M’n’Ms champed within minutes. I came out of my chocolate sleep haze just long enough to see the snowy streets of New York and Bryan inviting Homely Chelsea over to his apartment for New Year’s Eve.
I quickly grabbed a cab and we made our way through the I Am Legend 2: The Winter Tundra-like streets. Somewhere on the lower west side the cabbie stopped the car next to a girl in a large fur coat fighting with her cabbie.
“We all gotta take care of each other, you know?” he said. She muttered something about Atlantic Avenue (My street) and she got in. It was three in the morning, and I was tired. But at some point your mind and body and Nyquil just says, “what the hell”.
There are a couple kinds of drunk. Sloppy drunk, silly drunk, sick drunk, mean drunk. She was obliterated. She spent most of the trip babbling about Egypt. She spent another good portion holding hands with me. And the third portion, and this is where it gets really interesting, she spent rubbing my crotch with her designer leather glove.
I kept batting her hand away. This wasn’t “Taxicab Confessions” after all so I continued to say things like “Let’s go back to holding hands. Holding hands is okay.” And in her thick Middle Eastern accent she kept saying “No. It’s all magic. Everything is so happiness”. We pull up to Atlantic Avenue and the cabbie turns right to take me home. The middle eastern geisha is going left. The cabbie calmly informs her that he’s simply taking me a block out of her way. She has a fit. She is screaming, yelling and demanding that she be let out. She’s sputtering nonsense and I just toss some money at the cabbie and get out. It’s 3:30, I’m trying to come off of a Nyquil high and I’m greeted on my street by this:
I don’t think that I’m someone who should travel / interact with the general public. At least not at the holidays.
There’s a certain karma that comes attached with my energy. Not that I believe in either of those things, but the deck is certainly stacked against me for the fact that I must have been some kind of awful human in my past life (not that I believe in that either).
There is a woman on the CTA. I call her bird lady. She’s clearly a street person, adorned with ratty clothes, dirty face and hands, and trash bag full of her possessions. But the most striking fact about bird lady is, of course, her bird’s nest hair. Huge and frayed, it flies wildly around her head. And if you look real close, you can make out clumps of her own shit caught in between the tangles.
Bird lady likes to keep to herself, mostly. Never asks for change; just simply wants to ride the El to the end of the tracks. But the reason she is significant is that absolutely, without a doubt, every time I see her on the train, and the proverbial “Doors Closing” message plays, she poops her pants. No sugar coating it. No playing games. She just poops in her pants. And then my fellow passengers and I are stuck playing the game “Can I stand the smell until my stop?”. Most people bail quickly. The next stop is like a massive train exodus to another car. Some people even use those illegal thru-doors that we’re not supposed to use. I, generally, last the whole way as I’ve grown quite accustom to the bird lady and her fecal tendencies.
Which brings us to the joy that is Shoreline Park. A condominium complex that charges you a non-refundable 25 dollars if you want to move a chair down three floors in the freight elevator. It is also common knowledge that the freight elevator in my building, the 4950, is remarkably slower than the other three buildings.
I come home from the Jewel-Osco, food in bags, bags in hands, a six-pack of Snapple weighing down my wrists and I notice the elevator is all the way on 15. Wonderful. I press the button and seemingly 15 minutes later the elevator arrives.
I step in, mainly focusing on the heaviness of the bags and finding my apartment key. I press 7.
The doors close and I turn around.
On the floor of the freight elevator in building 4950 was a large smear, smattering of doggie diarrhea all over the elevator floor.
And then the smell hit me.
I tried to cover my mouth with my bags but I was unsuccessful. 1………2………..3………..the elevator moved at a glacial pace. And I was trapped. And then I looked down again. Along with the explosion of gross doggy mess was a mixture of fluffy white dog hair, smeared across the floor.
And then I vomited. Not a lot. Like a little. 4………..5………..6…………and the doors finally hit 7 and I burst from the elevator, gasping and sick.
Looking back, I could have hit any number of floor buttons before seven to get off, but alas, my blind nausea and sense of karma blocked all plausible brain function. And I’m just wondering…if I had to pay a non-refundable 25 dollar fee to move a piece of furniture, I wonder what the fee for massive doggy diarrhea explosion would be?
But I figured if I called the front desk they would CSI that vomit and then come after me.
I must have been Jack the Ripper in the past. I had to have been. Or that lady that killed all those girls and bathed in their blood. Or Teddy Roosevelt. Someone truly and bad karma-worthily horrible.
There are few things in this world that I love more than Christmas. Frankly I believe there are no things that I love in this world more than Christmas. I love the lights. I love the commercials. I love the songs. I love the gifts. The only part of the holiday that I don’t actually enjoy is the whole spending time with family bit. I’ll take everything else. Wrap it up. I’ll put it on layaway if I have to.
So imagine my shock / awe / wonder / joy when I finally saw my first Christmas commercial of the year. Kohl’s is having some kind of sale. Although that strikes me as a bit odd because isn’t everything in Kohl’s already on sale? It’s basically a classy TJMaxx. But anyway, Kohl’s is having some pre-holiday, holiday sweater / khaki pants glassware sale.
So I am using the restroom, #1, and I hear from the family room the sound of holiday jingle jangle bells. Elated, I flush, and make a 100-yard dash for the television. It was almost an out-of-body experience really. I was looking down on myself, squealing with joy, quietly whisper-shouting “Christmas! It’s Christmas! Christmas!” as I fly the short distance between the bathroom and the couch.
Now the problem with living alone is that I tend to leave things on the floor. You have your shoes, jackets, books ect…
Shoes. There’s the problem. As my out-of-body slow motion holiday dash turned the corner I tripped on a rogue shoe and came crashing to the ground. Face first. Into carpet. Hard. Like embarrassingly hard.
And as I lie there, whimpering “christmas” into the carper, I realized something:
1. My personal humiliation truly knows no limits.
2. I have DVR. I simply could have walked to the family room and rewound the channel. There was no need for a dash. No need for an epic fall, followed by an epic fail.
But I guess I have to give myself props, in a way. Whatever perverse Michael Jackson sense of childlike wonder I still cling to is something special. Something that I should embrace. If I stop excreting joy from my pores at the mere sound of santa jingle jangle bells, then, what else is left to get excited about?
I’m pretty sure a coronary is imminent as soon as I see the Coca-Cola grandpa on the train commercial and the M&M one where the Red M&M says “He does exist!” and Santa says, “They do exist!” and then faints. Epic. Classic. X-Mas.
On my way into my building last night I inhaled a heavy dose of dread.
I was terrified at the thought of 15 floors of halloween partiers all coming at me at once. A mix of sexy pumpkins, sexy nurses, sexy dead people, and of course modest porn stars.
But Shoreline Park was remarkably quiet.
The 24-hour door lady, dressed as a witch, simply nodded as I keyed into the building.
After checking my mail (BONUS! Three more 20% off coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond) I hit the button of the elevator. From that point forward it was all a blur.
Some sort of Carmen Miranda looking motherfucker came bursting out of the doors nearly knocking me over. The gentleman flipped his wig hair, touched me on the shoulder with his laced-gloved hand and whispered, “Boo baby. It’s halloween. Don’t look so scared.” And with that she/he simply sashayed out of my life.
After regaining the color in my face I calmly hit 7 and had one of many conversations I have daily with myself. And I wondered: Well first, was that actually a lady, and second, if not, was it a drag queen?
Cross-dressing is Halloween 101 so I was a bit confused about the distinction. I mean Carmen Miranda was pretty convincing and that outfit did not look like it came out of plastic from one of those Halloween stores that magically appear and disappear come October. So was he a lady oft? Or was this a one-time occurrence. I imagine I never really understood, still don’t really, the necessity of getting wasted in some kind of special outfit. My couch seems like a good enough place to drink, so I don’t know why I have to spend 15 dollars on a Michael Myers mask just to enjoy some adult beverages.
I’m sure Carmen Miranda had a fabulous night partying, drinking, sashaying and popping out of elevators, but I guess I just wanted to know who exactly I was being sassed by on this, my most least favorite of holidays.