I’m Trying! (The verb, not the adjective)

Posted: September 1, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It may be futile, but I’m going to keep trying, dammit!

A couple of years ago Steve, a wise co-worker and friend, took me aside and laid down some tough love on yours truly. Said tough love consisted of explaining, in no uncertain terms, that I complain entirely too much and that despite how funny and entertaining I thought my complaints were after I surrounded them with well thought quips and one liners…no one…ab-so-lute-ly NO one wanted to hear them. He went on, mercilessly explaining that perhaps my frustrations at work just might have something to do with my perpetual litany of complaint and griping. Miserable griping begets misery? Who’da thunk it?

“Dude, you call one of our bosses “Darth Vader”, Steve chided. He often prefaced his “You-Need-To-Listen” statements with “Dude”. I listened and said a few “Yeah, but”s. Yet, as far as he was concerned, this was not open to debate. I left our little pow wow angry and muttering, which is ironic as the whole conversation seemed to be about my anger and mutterings.

As I calmed down, despite the “Dude” preface, I began to see the wisdom in his words. I did complain entirely too much. Maybe my complaints weren’t quite as hilarious and entertaining as I thought they were. While discussing my employer’s rather unfair and unfriendly treatment of me, he brought up another point. “You think all that shit you say doesn’t get back to them? Dude, they’re not stupid.” This too was true. There were two bosses. One, a cheap, miserable, black, gay man who had issues with being black, issues with being gay and issues with being a man. He didn’t seem to mind being cheap and miserable, so he had that going for him…which was nice. He was just smart and educated enough to realize how limited his intelligence actually was. Or maybe not. Isn’t it maddening how stupid people never seem to understand how dense they are??? My other boss was a cheap, drug addicted, megalomaniacal, narcissistic prince of a man who actually typed “New York Real Estate Guru” beneath his smug photo on Facebook. Yeah Mr. Trump, last time I checked owning 3 small buildings doesn’t catapult you into the guru gang. You’re Mr. Roper. OK?

But Steve was right, neither of them were entirely stupid….not even the stupid one. In fact, the guy wearing the “I’m

I think mine is the second one down, on the left.

With Stupid” t-shirt should probably be flanking their angry little employee who wasn’t getting ahead and couldn’t figure out why. I realized that other friends and co-workers had tried to tell me to reel it in, and I had been too busy trying to think up clever insults to pay any heed. When I said “Hi” to my boss and he walked by ignoring me, I chalked it up to his being a Supreme Douchebag. What did I expect? One of his employees spent an inordinate amount of time running him down behind his back every chance he got. Sure, he was and is a Supreme Douchebag…but I certainly couldn’t expect a hug and a raise for my behavior. After years of therapy, one of the nuggets I came away with was “You can’t control how others behave, you can only control how YOU behave.” Therapy Wisdom Nuggets are VERY expensive by the way. One doesn’t saunter into Dr Jungenfreud’s office and get a 6 piece.

I turned it around. I even took some of my co-workers aside and apologized to them for my constant griping. They were taken aback, but I think and hope they appreciated it. From then on I shut my trap. My bosses were cheap ingrates, but they were still my bosses and at the end of the day, it was their place and they could do whatever they wanted. I learned to shrug my shoulders and say “Well, what can you do?” and “I don’t agree with it, but it’s their place and they can do what they want.” My bosses never noticed the change, but my co-workers did. About a year later “The Guru” and I had an exchange and I left after an F-bomb or three. I had a tough time finding a new job for the next year and a half. In retrospect it isn’t how I wanted to leave my job of 17 years. However, I’m not so arrogant as to dismiss my role in the demise of our working relationship. So it goes.

Scary combo in a few ways.

I’m now at a new job which I like and am very grateful for. My new employers say things like “Thank You.” and “That’s a good idea.” which was something I never heard at my previous job. It’s not perfect, but once again without the aid of dear old Steve I am taking a look at myself when it comes to my not getting ahead. Now I no longer go on and on with a litany of complaint. I preface my statements with how much I like my job. My newest revelation of self-discovery is that I go through life thinking up and rehearsing clever remarks in regards to the aspects of my job that somehow, all too often emerge from my mouth. Another thing that keeps me from getting ahead is my temper who is the Cisco to my big mouth’s Pancho. I am 42 now and my brain still hasn’t developed much in the way of editing software. Here’s the routine. A customer acts like an asshole. I say something or roll my eyes, I get in trouble and stew over the injustice of it all. Sure I’m not in the wrong…but I’m not winning or getting ahead. Once again, it is time to learn to shut my mouth.

As I biked to work, I started to think of this new philosophy. Now, God has a warped sense of humor. He has made both Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton’s dog best selling authors while I get rejection form letters from MAD and Cracked magazines. He was listening intently to my inner dialogue and decided to have a little fun. He warmed things up by sending 7 high school kids in to be my first customers of the day. I knew they were going to suck. My spidey sense told me so. They all ordered water, which I have a rather unreasonably strong aversion to. The way I see it, fetching water for people is more work, with no money. I tried to have a good attitude and to be friendly with them. It was a no-go. They were horrible teenagers and I was a dorky middle aged guy trying to be cool (God when did this happen to me? I used to be cool.) One of them even made fun of me. I think. He made some remark that I didn’t quite catch and his girlfriend started giggling. Their bill (with the water) came to $90 and they left me a $4 tip. Well, fuck you with a chainsaw, you seven reminders of my poor life choices. It’s funny how we know something is going to happen, and yet we still get angry about it when it does. “I knew you were going to say/do that!” ex-girlfriends have said to me prior to a fight. “Well, if you were expecting it, then why are you surprised and angry?” I’d answer. Is it any wonder I’m single? It’s just a weird nuance of humanity. We know something is going to suck, yet despite our accurate forecast, we still get angry and frustrated. Shouldn’t we bask in satisfaction of our pre-knowledge of the impending suckitude? Nope. That’s not how it works. We’re going to dread going to the DMV, we’re going to wait in line for 3 hours only to be informed by the inevitable, apathetic GED wielding Sheniqua or Mabel that we’ve been in the wrong line…”NEXT!!!”.

“Hey, Ashley. I just tipped the old dude like, less than 5%”
“Oh, Brandon. You rock so hard.”

I think the Teen Torture Power Hour at work was a bit of karmic backlash from my youth. Every pay day my friend Josh and I would cash the paychecks from our dish washing and prep cook jobs when we were 15 and 16 and trot on down to Friendly’s restaurant in our home town to look for trainee waitresses to torment. The hunting was made easier because the poor girls had to wear a tag that read “Trainee” where it would normally say “Alice” or “Flo” We’d order like wise asses “Hey Trainee, can I have a heavy breathing Spanish omelet and hold the side effects” or “I see you have something on your menu called the “Friendly Frank” sounds a bit like a child molester doesn’t it?” Then we’d write something crude and juvenile on the check after paying. “Care to join us after for a warm cheese enema?” or “Ever dip you nipples in the hot fudge for your boyfriend? The difference is we tipped well. We worked in the industry and understood these things.

In addition to their contempt and sub 5% tip (Oh, I forgot to mention prior to the lousy tip, two of them had asked for change of a fifty dollar bill. Injury is just so much more satisfying with a healthy dose of insult heaped upon it) one of the kids had inquired about renting our upstairs function room for a birthday party. I knew my boss would ask me to work that party. An afternoon of fetching sodas for My-Super-Sweet-Sixteen rejects as they ridiculed the middle aged angry man behind the bar. They’d ask for alcoholic drinks and make stupid jokes while I’d have to refuse, pick up after them and hold my tongue. One of my grievances at work is the quality of private parties I end up working. If two parties are scheduled for the week…one is a bachelor party of generous, hard drinking, fun guys with special guest stars the Swedish Olympic Blow Job Team and a one time original line up Guns-N-Roses reunion and the other is an AA meeting for those over the age of 70 who have coupons…I will end up tending bar at the latter.

I know God was messing with me, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of one of my patented mushroom cloud meltdowns of sarcasm and remarks. I noted that I was already thinking of remarks. This is how I am wired and where I need the most rewiring. I wrote about it to a small degree in another piece awhile back called “The Douchebag Option“. I didn’t say word one. I pasted a smile on my face and shut my yap. I resisted the urge to inform my boss, who had just given the youngsters a grand tour of our function room for the impending birthday on October 3rd, that I won’t be available that day as I’d be doing something infinitely more satisfying like giving myself paper cuts on my tongue and gargling with tobacco sauce.

It’s a small victory…very small…but at least I am trying.


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