Please be kind to service workers.

serviceworker

Most of you are probably done with your holiday shopping, but the stores aren’t closed yet.  There are still people doing last minute shopping, and even on Christmas Day, the supermarkets, convenience stores, and many restaurants are open.

Just a reminder here — please remember to be respectful and kind to service and retail workers.

People in service and retail work very long hours for very low pay, and it’s not an easy job — take it from me, this type of work is extremely stressful and grueling.   Many service and retail workers must work on Christmas too, and many don’t get overtime or holiday pay.

Someone told me today about a customer who screamed at a cashier because he had been working for 12 hours straight and needed to take a break to eat and closed his cash register.

Service workers are human.  They have to eat, rest, and take care of personal needs.   They have families and lives just like you do.

So please remember to be kind to service and retail workers, who work hard to make it possible for you to have an easier and happier holiday.   Even if a worker seems a little stressed, short, tired, or needs to take a break, please be patient.   There’s no reason to take out your frustrations on them unless they are being truly rude.

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Stories from the broom closet: adventures in housekeeping.

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I don’t write a whole lot about my job working as a part time housecleaner because of the stigma attached to a job like this. As a college educated person with a very high IQ, who used to make a living as an editor/columnist for a long-defunct medical journal and moonlight writer of book reviews for publications like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, sometimes it’s hard to reconcile just how low I’ve fallen on the social status ladder. I’ll spare you the details of how that came to be, because it’s not very interesting and has a lot to do with self-sabotage and being trained to be a victim by my abusers (and has a lot to do with the economy and the geographic region I live in as well). I’ve written about all that before anyway.  This isn’t about that.

This isn’t supposed to be a depressing post though. Framed the right way, I actually have a very interesting and even fun job, albeit one that doesn’t pay much and fluctuates depending on time of year.

12 Reasons Why Cleaning Houses for a Living May Be Underrated. 

1. It sure beats sitting in a call center all day getting screamed at for things totally outside your control and where you are required to put up with and “handle” the abuse thrown at you. (I did that too and had enough after 4 years of it)

2. You’re constantly busy, and the scenery is ever-changing, so you never get bored. No interminably long afternoons spent watching a never-moving clock.

3. You’re constantly moving and it’s a great way to keep in shape. I was able to cancel my gym membership.

4. Sometimes you get tips, especially around the holidays. Some of the tips can be good.

5. You sometimes get really nice stuff other people want to get rid of: I’ve taken home small furniture, a crystal vase, books, an antique mirror, original paintings, clothing, leather bags, and shoes, various homemade baked goodies, and a homemade quilt (which got eaten by my dog, well I hope he enjoyed it).

6. I work alone most of the time, and as a socially awkward, introverted person who never could decipher office politics and the kiss-up games most offices require you to play to move ahead, this works well for me.

7. Once you start having your own clients who request you only, you begin to establish a kind of relationship with them. They look forward to seeing you and it feels good that your giving them a clean house (and sometimes providing them with company) makes them happy.

8. I’m not required to work evenings or weekends, and sometimes I’m off as early as 1 or 2 o’clock. Sure you don’t make as much on slow days like that, but it’s nice to be home early, as long as it doesn’t happen too often.

9. Although the novelty of this has worn off, it can be interesting seeing the types of homes people have and the way they have decorated them. Some of the houses are impressive indeed!

10. The work is mentally easy and I can let my mind wander while working. It is physically hard work though, and sometimes at the end of the day, I’m very sore! A hot bath with epsom salts usually helps though.

11. The pets are awesome, and are the best part of the job (even though they shed and make messes). I could write other stories just about the different pets I meet. Maybe I’ll do that sometime.

12.  It’s also a great job for an aspiring writer because you meet so many different kinds of people (they’re not all snobby rich people living in gated communities, though we have those too). You have a front row seat to a lot of family drama and eccentric types and other things sometimes that make you go hmmmm or WTF!   It’s a great opportunity to study and observe human nature and that hones your skills as a writer.  You also learn a lot about people.

Some of the things I hear and see make pretty good stories, so here are  five of them.

The humorist and memoir writer David Sedaris used to work as a housecleaner in New York City, and used some of the things he experienced during that stint as fodder for his uproariously funny essays.

1. The Lonely Lady and the Surprise Birthday Lunch.

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A well to do older lady living alone, whose husband died last year, seems to want company more than having her house cleaned. Although she talks way too much for my taste, she’s a sweet lady and last year threw me a surprise birthday party just for the two of us! She said she needed an extra hour and I thought, oh no, she’s going to want me to clean out her refrigerator or organize her closet or something (trust me, you do NOT want to see this woman’s closet–she’s almost a hoarder and never throws away anything).

When I arrived she asked me at one point to stop what I was doing and come into the sunroom. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and the table was set beautifully, with flowers and greens everywhere. She had prepared delicious chicken salad with vinaigrette and fresh tomatoes and basil, another tossed salad, sweet ice tea, and an amazing lemon cake with lemon buttercream from an expensive bakery (with NO cream cheese icing, thank God!) To top it off, she presented me with $50 in cash! That was a good day. And even better, she didn’t ask how old I was. I really think the woman is just lonely and felt like having company and I got the honor.

2. Schizo Santa Claus and the Cup of Hair.

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It’s not coffee in that mug, but the words say it all.

There’s another guy, a Vietnam veteran who looks like Santa Claus who probably suffers severe PTSD or even schizophrenia. The man is very strange and his house is a disaster and it stinks too. He always wants to go back to sleep after you clean his bedroom. He collects beautiful, antique chessboards and has them all over his house. He seems to be somewhat of a hoarder too and it’s hard to move around in the tight, cluttered rooms.

The man sheds; his wiry gray hair is all over everything. The first time I went there I thought he must have a pet, maybe a wirehaired terrier, but no, the hair belongs to him.

He keeps a mug of his sheddings on the bathroom vanity. You cannot touch it, you are not allowed to throw it away. The first time I went there I didn’t know so I threw it away and he started to panic. I had to dig through the trash to find the hair and with a pair of plastic gloves, retrieved it to its rightful place in the mug on the bathroom sink. I have no idea why he needs this, and I don’t want to know either. Maybe he’s knitting himself a wig or a sweater. Who knows.

3. Contact High and the Stoner House.

stoners

The other day I went to clean a one-time house (not a regular client). The door was answered by a guy in his early 20s or maybe late teens, who was obviously stoned. He told me his mother was up in Maine having chemotherapy treatments but would be returning the next day. He showed me around the house and told me not to worry about cleaning his room, he would do it himself.

Two of his stoner buddies were there with him, and they all sat in the living room smoking out a bong and watching some anime movie.
Soon he came upstairs and told me he had spoken to his mother on the phone and she told him I had to clean his room after all (I know he had not been on the phone; obviously he decided he didn’t feel like cleaning it).

His room reeked of pot smoke and there were bongs and pipes on almost every surface and little piles of weed.   I got a contact high just from being in there.  Later I overheard a telephone conversation where his mother told him his two friends had to be gone when she arrived home the next day. I guess that was the last time he could party!

I got a $25 tip from him when I was leaving. He said the house looked great. I hope his mom agrees.

4. The Elderly Couple Who Refused to Move Downstairs.

old_couple

At another one-time job, the middle aged son from New Jersey had come to try to talk his elderly parents, one who was wheelchair bound, the other with advanced Alzheimers, into moving into a downstairs bedroom. He wanted to close off the stairs because of the danger of falling, but the father, the ambulatory one with Alzheimer’s, wouldn’t have it. The old man walked around in nothing but a diaper, and his bowed legs looked like toothpicks but he scampered up and down the stairs like a first grader jacked up on Red Bull.  He kept insisting he didn’t mind carrying his wife  (who weighed at least twice what he did!) up the stairs. Yikes!  This feisty codger had to be watched closely!

The son told us that since he was unable to move in with them (because his job and family were back in New Jersey) and they had bought and paid off the house and refused to move or go into a nursing home, that he would have to hire a full-time nurse and cook to take care of them both in their house. His concern and love for his disabled and elderly parents was touching and so was the old couple’s abiding love for each other. They were actually the kind of old people you’d call cute. In fact, I’d call them them freaking adorable.

5. The Malignant Sociopathic Bible Thumping Narcissistic Bitch from Hell.

churchlady_satan

There was one customer that couldn’t keep a regular cleaner, because of what a horrible and mean person she was. In the short time I cleaned her house, I didn’t see one redeeming quality. First of all, the lady was a control freak. She was told on a number of occasions to have the sheets ready when we got there, but she wasn’t having any of that. She’d deliberately wait until we were about to leave before taking he sheets out of the dryer. When called out on this once, she demanded to have the name of the person in the office who said that, even though she had been told again and again to have the sheets ready. Basically she was calling us liars.

She’d keep you in her house as long she could (knowing full well we had other assignments that day),  standing over you watching everything you did and making you do things over and over even when there was no need. Her washer and dryer happened to be in the master bathroom so she’d wait until you had just mopped the floor in there before retrieving the sheets for the beds, leaving her shoe marks all over the mopped floor so you’d have to mop it again. She’d also push into you on purpose on her way to the dryer, and then in a sarcasatic-sweet voice, coo “I am SO sorry!”

One time someone else cleaned her house because I was sick that day.  She said this woman waited until the moment she came in to clean the kitchen and suddenly decided she just had to start rearranging her kitchen cabinets at that moment!

I finally had enough of this nasty character the day she blamed me for her vicious dog growling at me. She had a golden retriever, and usually they are very sweet dogs, but this one was anything but. I was coming up the front porch stairs and the dog was there, not tethered to anything, growling and baring its teeth at me. The woman came out and stared at me with black malevolent reptilian eyes.
“What did you do to my Ginger? She NEVER growls at anyone! You must have done something to upset her.”
That was the last straw. I told the office I would no longer clean this woman’s house. Shortly after that, she canceled service.

Did I forget to mention the woman’s house was filled with Bibles and plaques of Christian sayings and Bible verses and ceramic angels? Oh, and her husband called her “Mom” and seemed terrified of her. Also her grown children never visited. I wonder why!

If you like these stories, there are others. I can post them in a later article, if there’s enough interest.

Raw nerve.

everything_is_fine

Over the past few days I have been extremely anxious, even panicky. I can’t focus enough to write anything or do much of anything else either. I really have no idea why or what might have triggered it.

Last night instead of writing anything, I poked around on nostalgia sites, reminiscing about the things of my childhood, particularly the snack food. My childhood was terrible, but I have fond memories of the various sugary and salty foods I ate (why in %$#& did Buitoni ever stop making those awful but delicious toaster pizzas? Where’s a chalky, non-chewy Giant Sweet-Tart when you need one?) and the toys I played with (those over 45 or 50 or so will remember that Fuzzy Wuzzy soap that grew “hair” just like a Chia pet and had a small but high quality prize inside). These memories bring me a measure of comfort. Things seemed so much simpler before everything started going to hell about 30 years ago and hearts began to harden and greed became good because a movie character named Gordon Gecko said so. Life has just become way too complicated and stressful for someone like me (although I couldn’t live without the Internet, which for someone like me is the best thing that could ever have happened).

Sometimes I feel like I just can’t cope anymore. I’m so tired. I’m getting old. I have too many unresolved psychological issues. I worry about the future constantly. I have a pervasive feeling of nameless dread, as if something terrible is about to happen.

I don’t know where these feelings come from or what might have triggered them, but I feel like a raw nerve and even at work have been jumpy, quick to take offense to everything, and paranoid. I have too many disorders to function well at a job for any length of time, especially when it comes to dealing with others. Sometimes I just wish I could go off by myself and live as a hermit, never having to deal with anyone, but for that you need money and I have no money. I’m caught in a no-win situation.

The job might be part of the problem. I’m burned out; I hate my job. There. I said it. I hate the politics at work, and the favoritism. I’m not a favorite. I have never been a favorite at any job. I can’t play the game; I have never been able to play the game. I wish I didn’t have to work, or could just write and make a living that way. But I can’t, not yet anyway. I don’t want to look for a new job because I know it will be as crappy as the one I have, that I’ll still be forced to deal with people I dislike and who dislike me just as much. I’ll still feel like the odd one out, the employee who is most expendable and always overlooked. I’m so ill suited for the service industry but I can’t get my foot in the door for anything else. I burned all my bridges a long time ago, and now I’m well past 50 and it’s too late to start over in an employment situation or going back to school. My only hope left is to become a professional writer.

The DBT and self-soothing tools I normally use to focus and center are not working. My thoughts are racing and my hands are shaking. My sleep has been fitful. Maybe it’s the heat but I think it’s more than that. I feel like my head will explode. I don’t know what’s really going on with me right now. I need to find a good therapist. I need to be in a relationship but am too scared. I need to write more.

One thing that might be contributing to my high anxiety is caffeine. I’m addicted to coffee. I’m craving some right now, but I don’t think I should make any. I might have to cut down on my favorite beverage–a prospect which itself causes me anxiety.

I spend most of my free time holed up inside the house on this laptop, which is fine when I’m actually being productive, but last night all I did was poke around on random nostalgia sites and Facebook and wrote absolutely nothing. And then felt guilty about it.

I know what I need to do is go out, do something outside the house, get off the computer, but I don’t have the motivation.

Finally I got the idea to just write about my panic-stricken state. After all, this blog was intended to be my therapy, so what have I got to lose?

I want to reduce the hours I spend at my job.

money-happiness-scale

In order to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head, I currently work for a housecleaning company. I actually don’t mind the work but the job can be VERY physically stressful (though it does keep me in shape and saves me the expense of a gym membership). I also don’t like the way things in the home office are run (I will not go into details here) or the blatant favoritism I have to deal with constantly (which seems to exist in most service jobs).

The office politics really stresses me out and as with most of the other service jobs I’ve held, I’ve reached a point of burnout where I really dread even going to work anymore. I do not really want to look for yet another crappy service job, and writing jobs in this area are practically nonexistent, unless you have a journalism degree which is required to write for one of the local newspapers. Obviously, I’d rather write for a living. I actually used to, when I lived in the northeast about 20 years ago.

If I could, I would write all day, every day. I want more time than the weekends and evenings to do this (because I’m simply too exhausted sometimes to write as much as I’d like). Sometimes I wind up staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning to catch up on reading and posting, but of course then I’m in no condition to be at my job at 8 in the morning. At my age, trying to get by on 3-4 hours of sleep is very unhealthy and then I go to work feeling like absolute crap.

So until something better comes along, I’m considering going from fulltime to part time–working only 4 days a week instead of 5. The job doesn’t offer health insurance anyway, so I really wouldn’t be losing anything except a day’s pay.

My conundrum is that even working 5 days a week, I barely earn enough to pay my bills. I don’t even have cable TV anymore because I can’t afford it (not that I need it). I never go on vacations, not even weekend getaways. I can’t even afford the movies. I drive a 13 year old car with expired tags because I can’t afford to have the repairs done that would get it to pass inspection. My disposable income is almost nonexistent–it actually qualifies me as “poverty level” according to the national tables. So obviously I really can’t afford to lose a day of work.

On the other hand, why should my life consist of spending most of it doing something I don’t really want to be doing? Our narcissistic Powers That Be would like to keep most of us working like dogs, earning slave wages, and possibly dying an early death due to work-related stress with no health insurance or safety nets at all should we become ill, but dammit, I am sick to death of being one of the sheep that feeds their coffers but gets nothing in return but a bare-survival income that does nothing for me but keeps me from being on the streets.

I need an extra day to relax and write as much as I want, and even start writing a book. It’s hard to squeeze everything I’d like to do into weekends and evenings. But the money situation is worrisome too. So I’d like to get your opinions on what YOU would do if you were in my shoes.

Is “survival money” more important than doing something you love, even if that thing you love pays nothing? Or is it better to take the risk to chase happiness and have faith that somehow, even with less time spent working at a humdrum job, the money you need will still be there?

Please do not suggest I approach my family for help. That is not an option for me.

Restaurant Service Opinions

The blogger who wrote this article (it’s the only article in their blog) has made some incendiary remarks to commenters in my article “Restaurant Customers who Don’t Tip” and has even resorted to namecalling and insulting my readers. This blogger evidently has issues with restaurant servers and really shouldn’t be eating out, since someone like this is unlikely to ever leave a restaurant happy, and probably makes both wait staff and management miserable with their nitpicky demands.

Although I welcome dissenting opinions on my blog, trollish behavior is never acceptable, and I have warned this user that any further trollish comments will be edited or removed. I want to keep a peaceful website.

Out of curiosity, I clicked on Spring1’s profile and found their blog with its single article. I was shocked at the venom spewed toward restaurant servers and thought it should be called out, so I’m reblogging it. I find it interesting that it’s their first article and has 112 comments but not one Like.

I hope I’m not opening a can of worms here. Until I published my article about customers who don’t tip, I had no idea this was such a controversial issue.

Springs1's Blog

http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/one-hundred-things-restaurant-staffers-should-never-do-part-one/

I have some comments about this blog and since on that blog they are no longer excepting comments, I would like to see if anyone agrees or disagrees with the comments I have for it

I agree with these:

“24. Never use the same glass for a second drink.”

YET, servers all the time pour tea from the pitchers when they can get you a fresh glass with FRESH ICE(not watered down) and not some tea in the glass sweetened already.  The servers should get you a new slice of lemon(if you want lemon with your tea that is), served ONLY on the rim of the glass NOT EVER in the glass as the seeds can come loose in the tea,  and a new glass of tea.  NEVER should the server pour at your table, especially risking spilling it on the table. 

Also, even for soft drinks, sometimes some…

View original post 1,047 more words

My day in Aspie hell

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Aspies sometimes have problems getting ahead in life. We may be intelligent and creative, but because we don’t really play well with others and are easily stressed and overwhelmed by social situations on the job and most of us aren’t good at schmoozing with higher-ups and playing the political games that are required to move up in an organization, many of us overlooked for promotions or just treated badly, as if we are mentally deficient. Many Aspies are underemployed, especially those of us who have an exceedingly low self image due to having been badly damaged by our psychopaths. If we were cursed with psychopathic parents, we were never given the tools other children were blessed with to succeed in life. Someone with Aspergers entering the workforce without life skills and survival tools is severely handicapped. It seems like some sort of cosmic joke that Aspies and malignant narcissists seem to be thrown together so often. It happens often enough that there has to be something more there than sheer coincidence, but I’ll save that thought for another time.

I read a study recently (I will find the link later) that found that people who are quiet and don’t talk very much are seen as less intelligent than gregarious, outgoing people. Many people with Aspergers are painfully shy and don’t make small talk easily. When forced to socialize, our attempts can be awkward and sound stilted or just weird. Unfortunately that probably makes us seem kind of slow. Socializing and engaging in small talk are extremely draining for someone with Aspergers, because it’s hard work. It just doesn’t come naturally.

In a way Aspies are like narcissists in that we have to “rehearse” how to act. The difference is a matter of conscience and emotion. The narcissist has no problem assessing a social situation and the appropriate way to behave, but for them it’s all cognitive. They are chameleons. When it comes to empathy and emotion, however, they are at a total loss. Since they can’t feel anything, they have to first decide which emotion is appropriate and then “act” like they feel that emotion. Aspies have the opposite problem. We can feel empathy and compassion, but have trouble expressing it. We are not good at putting on masks. We might seem cold and aloof but we are not. That’s why so many of us prefer solitude, where we don’t have to be “on” all the time.

Currently I work part time in a company where we are sent out in teams (or sometimes alone) to clean houses. It is a low level, grueling job, but I chose this over other service jobs because it seemed to require less social interaction than most of the others. I could just go to a house, clean it, and leave. I wouldn’t have to deal with customers in my face all day, or with office politics. It’s a good set up if I’m working alone (which I prefer) but most of the time I’m sent as part of a two person “team.” My regular partner is great, and respects my odd personality and knows I do a good job. I still get to work independently and she never has to check up on me.

Today I had the worst day an Aspie can have. My regular partner was off, and I was assigned a “special” (first time cleaning) that requires a lot more than a regular spiffing up. These specials can take all day. I don’t mind the extra work (and they do pay quite a bit more), but I was partnered with someone I knew I was going to have a problem with. She’s a very loud, extremely outgoing, rather aggressive personality and she is only 19 so she isn’t very mature either. Just being in her presence was triggering and causing mental overload. She just kept talking, and talking, and talking. I really didn’t know what to say, so I made polite noises and felt very triggered and overwhelmed. My stress levels were reaching dangerous levels–when I become sufficiently stressed, not only do I get pounding headaches, but sometimes my natural passivity and agreeableness breaks down and I snap and say something I regret. I wanted to jump out of the car and run away. By the time we got to our assignment, I was almost ready to quit my job. It didn’t help that I hadn’t been able to smoke in her car, and was having a major nicotine fit.

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When we got inside the house, I started with the master bathroom, attempting to stay out of her way while she did the dusting. I let my mind wander to other things as I cleaned, such as what I might blog about tonight, and what I could cook for dinner. But my partner kept coming in and asking questions, or worse, telling me I was doing my job wrong. She is not my boss, but I’ve noticed some of these young girls act like they know everything even when they don’t, and try to tell people what to do when they have no business doing so.

Like most Aspies, I dislike confrontations, so I let this pass the first few times. But by the 3rd or 4th time, I had enough and snarkily told her I knew how to do my job and she wasn’t my boss. She didn’t seem to like that, and whined that she was “just trying to help.” That made me wonder if she is a narc.

She kept talking and talking and talking. I wasn’t even listening to what she was saying. I had a pounding migraine and I felt like a raw nerve. The car ride back to the office was painful. She seemed like someone with ADHD, with all the fast talking and jarring topic changes in mid-sentence. But even worse was that she was constantly checking her phone WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING. She kept asking if her driving scared me. When I told her no (which was a lie), she started talking about how she likes to deliberately scare this other girl when she drives because she acts so afraid. Yep, I think this girl is definitely a narc.

I was so stressed and keyed up on the ride home that all the muscles in my face and back of my neck hurt and I thought I was going to throw up. For an Aspie, having to deal with a person like that all day feels like a day on the battlefield. It’s very debilitating.