Saturday, December 20, 2008

Just when I least expect it...(bad day alert)

I am not a huge holiday fanatic. In fact, most times, I just simply tolerate the season and wait for the food. You wanna know why? I think it has a lot to do with my expectations of people (you know, they) being a tad too high. In my mind, I want people to really care about each other. You know, all year long, not just fake it for the last 6 weeks of the year, spend money they really don't have, and display a sense of self-entitlement. Sure, there are cookie parties and group lunches at work, but I left there in tears yesterday. So much for warm and loving.

To be fair, a good thing did happen in the midst of it all. One of my co-workers showed me a side of himself that I didn't know was there. Maybe that's his version of holiday cheer...or maybe he's just a much better guy than I ever game him credit for being. Maybe I need to open my heart a little more and be more patient.

No maybe about that. I do.

So here's the the story:

It's Friday, the bosses are gone, the computers are being shut down in 30 minutes for a repair. A massive amount of mailings need to go out before the holidays and there are three people working on labeling and stuffing envelopes. It's not long before the "r" word starts flying. Apparently, the labels aren't being put on perfectly, thus making the worker responsible "look like a r*tard." Then another envelope looks "all r*tarded." There are only five of us in the office. The only other two people there are me and the lady at the front desk, who just happens to be the same person that watched Playette last Sunday. She can't hear what's going on, but she is the only person there with whom I've discussed Playette's diagnosis.

My first reaction was to try the "it only bothers you because you allow it to" approach. After all, that's what they always say, right? So I tell myself that I am the only one who can control my reactions and wait....

A few minutes later, I am still bothered. Christmas music plays in the background and the banter continues. I try to wrap up what I'm doing before the computers become useless.

I'm still bothered.

Ok, so screw that approach. I decide to say something.

I'm all, "Sorry to interrupt with something serious, but I'm wondering about something."

They stop for a moment so I continue.

"Was the "r" word used as slang a lot when you were growing up?"

Note: The young women I'm addressing are a six and nine years younger than me so regardless of the fact that one treats the other with disdain and rudeness, they have bonded and most times I am looked at as "the crazy old lady who sits over there."

Worker 1: "What's the "r" word?"

"R*tard or r*tarded. I choose to call it the "r" word because it really hurts me when people use it the way you were using it just now."

Worker 2: "I didn't say anything. What are you talking about?"
(If you need a voice for her in your head, think Paris Hilton.)

Me: "You both said it, but, aside from that, I just wanted to let you know that not many things offend me, but that does. It's better if I tell people so that they know and I'm not bothered by something that could have possibly been avoided, y'know?"

Worker 2: "Well I don't remember saying it. What's the big deal anyway? You're probably going to hear it from me again. Just so you know."

Me: "Well, I guess unless you've been affected personally, it probably doesn't feel like a big deal, but it does to me, so I'm just letting you know."

Them: New conversation. Backs have turned.

Worker 3 has been standing there listening. You see, Worker 3 and I had this conversation about a week ago. He used the word and since it was in the midst of a conversation (we all work in open space), I sent him an email asking him to remind me to talk to him about something later. He did and I told him something very similar to what I said to the young ladies yesterday. He apologized, thanked me for bringing it to his attention, and promised to do better.

Back to yesterday.

Worker 3 sees that I have gotten nowhere with the others and have turned around to focus back on what I was doing. I'm shaking though. Me and my high expectations of the decency of others. We're shaking as we type.

I print out what I need for work and then, hands still shaking, search my blog for the post that says what I want to say but just can't right then. I print it.

I then moved back to my desk and began to pack my things.

Worker 1 looks like she doesn't know what to do or say.

Worker 2 keeps talking about something else.

Worker 3 says, "I don't think you guys get what she's telling you. She's saying that when you use that word it hurts her. That's really offensive to a lot of people. You didn't acknowledge what she was saying."

I walk over to the group and say, "I know this doesn't mean anything to you, but it does to me. I can't get out what I want to say, but if you give a damn, you can read this," and I put the printed post on the table. (not my finest moment, I know)

Worker 3 picks it up and starts to read.

I grab my timesheet and go drop it off in my supervisor's chair. My hands are still shaking and I can feel the stupid tears comings. I hate the tears. I feel weak. Like, in the way that means I should be stronger. I should handle this all so much better. I work with these people every day. I can't avoid them. I wished I had never opened my mouth.

As I turn around to leave the supervisor's office, Worker 3 comes in and closes the door.

He tells me, "You keep this. This isn't for them. What you said was enough. Or at least it should have been. I'll talk to them again but keep this."

And then I let the tears fall.

He goes on, "I know this might not be the best timing, but I hope you have a happy holiday."

I swear I wanted to hug him. I never have before and I may never want to again, but I'm writing it here so that I can refer back on a day when we're pushing each other's buttons so that I can see what a decent man he really is. 'Cause that right there? Was pretty stinkin' decent.

I nodded and wished him the same, truly hoping that he enjoyed his next two weeks off.

I just now realized that he won't be there to help me through the next time I see Workers 1 and 2. Ugh. I just wish I had someone, anyone, that would be there with me to make sure that I don't crumble.

Anyway, I left. I said goodbye to the lady at the front. She asked me if I was ok and I nodded. The tears were back so I quickly closed the door.

I need help because after all of that? I actually expected one of them to call. Or send me an email. Not necessarily an apology, but just to see how I was. Because that's what I like to think that I would do.

I give people way too much credit.

I mean, why be considerate? There's shopping to be done!


Cathy said...

Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!!! I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. I'm glad this man could show you that you taught him something though. Take comfort in less person using those offensive words.

Michelle said...

Oh what an awful day. I wish I had something to say, something wise & helpful... but really? I'm just so very impressed you spoke up, when you didn't have to. That's amazing & wonderful!

Now - enjoy your holiday break! Every last moment.

sheree said...

oh Chrystal...I wish I was closer so I could come right over and give you a hug. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are far too selfish to EVER give a damn... sounds like "paris" is one of them.

I want to personally thank you for speaking up. You didn't only do it for Malea, you did it for gabby and many others too. [hugs]

Lisa said...

(((hugs hugs hugs))) Chrystal, remember that whole exchange I had with those a-holes on that message board about using the R-word? And how I told them that I was out to change the world, one person at a time? That's what you've done. You've changed at least one person, and that is huge. It doesn't make the rest any easier to swallow. I would bet, however, that even though they acted like they don't care, they are feeling at least an inkling of shame. And they'll probably never admit it even to themselves, but I bet they do. And I bet that even if they continue using that word, they'll never be able to use it again without at least thinking about what you said.

I'm sorry you've been hurt. I hurt right along with you :(

Hector and Jennifer Varanini Sanchez said...

Thank you Chrystal for your courage and your strength. I could feel everything you were going through as I read your post. We have all been there or will be there walking in your shoes, you are not alone. Big hug to you. You are an amazing and strong woman. Go back to work and hold your head high knowing that we are all there with you in spirit.