“How’s the new job going?” I asked my friend Jennifer.
She was recently forced to take a dramatic step back in her career. Though she had years of experience and education, a bad economy meant the only job she could find was part time work at a coffee shop.
She groaned. “I forgot how rude people can be.”
“What do you mean? You deal with rude people every day,” I replied.
“Yeah but there’s rude and then there’s retail rude,” she explained.
I didn’t follow. “Retail rude?”
“Retail rude,” she repeated. “It’s when little, powerless people feel justified dumping on someone they view as beneath them, someone who works in retail.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. “I’m not sure I follow.”
“I’ll explain,” she said. “Imagine a guy, we’ll call him Jack. Jack gets up in the morning and his wife yells at him. Jack goes to work and his boss yells at him. Jack hates his home life. Jack hates his job. Jack doesn’t even like his dog very much, so Jack looks for an escape. Jack finds it in an 850-calorie drink called white chocolate mocha. Jack comes to my store to buy the happiness his life lacks. But there’s a problem.”
“Uh oh,” I said.
“Uh oh is right. Our delivery truck didn’t come, and we have no white chocolate syrup. I politely explain this to Jack and suggest another drink instead. Jack, who has no control over his life, decides to claim authority over white chocolate.”
“You mean he yells at you.”
“Boy does he. He screamed at me over a coffee drink. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so rude. It was as if I woke up that morning and thought to myself, ‘A stranger named Jack is going to come into the shop today. How can I ruin his life? I know! I’ll hijack the delivery truck and steal all the white chocolate.’”
She laughed diabolically.
“You sound like a cartoon villain,” I laughed.
“Jack should have thanked me for saving him all those empty calories.”
I glanced guiltily at the donut on the plate next to the phone. I slid it away.
“The sad part is that when I was the head of a company there were real things that went wrong. No one, absolutely no one, spoke to me that way even though they might have been justified. It just goes to show, we live in a society where we think it’s ok to dump on people at the bottom.”
“Well the perceived bottom,” I interjected. “Jack looked at you and he saw a barista. He doesn’t know that you were the head of a company, or that you will be again as soon as you find another job.”
Now she gave a real diabolical laugh, “Jack better hope that when I’m the head of a company again it isn’t the one he works at.”
Yikes, I thought. If anyone who worked for Jennifer was “retail rude” absent white chocolate would be the least of their problems!
Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at NoraBlithe.com.