When I worked at the grocery store, at first I used to get peeved when people would ask to speak to the manager. It made me feel like they didn’t trust or believe what I was saying. Then I got concerned that maybe — if enough people asked to see the manager — she would eventually decide that I wasn’t doing a good enough job and get rid of me.
Luckily, my manager was pretty cool, and even used to say that if people “requested a meeting” with her, that I should just go ahead and call her over without “escalating the situation.” But the whole experience got me to thinking about human nature.
Most people want to see the manager because they are so afraid of being disrespected. They might get the feeling that they are being undermined in some way, and so their natural defenses go up. They are ready to fight to the end!
It’s not unlike prison, really. Though I’ve never been, my buddy did some time a few years back. He said that you have to fight for every little thing. Even a brownie for dessert. He said the ‘fight or flight’ mentality is constant, and if you choose ‘flight,’ you’re going to be targeted.
One day I guess some gang member gave him a razor blade and told him to slash his cellie. My buddy refused, so two days later I guess he got a beat down in the kitchen. He said he almost stabbed some guy to death with the handle of a soup ladle, but is glad he didn’t, ’cause it would have meant a lot more time in jail. But from there on in, everything changed.
The point is that once you’ve been slighted — and even if you just feel like that was the case — it’s difficult to just ‘shut off’ what it does to you. You have your guard up for every situation from then on. You can’t trust anybody.
So even when someone tells you at the grocery store that orange juice was on sale last week and you can’t get the price this week even though you have the old circular, your first instinct is to go totally ape. You want to tear the place up. Crack some clerk’s skull on the deli counter. “Clean up in aisle four!”
You are ready to fight for every little thing — even if it may seem insignificant — because if you let go of even a little bit of power, you might end up in a scary situation.
The thing is, respect is a mutual arrangement. I eventually had to quit the grocery store job. Towards the end, I was about to take a page from my buddy’s book and stab someone to death with a soup ladle, or take someone to the ground and crack a few ribs. That would not have been good for anyone, so I decided to just leave.
But even now, whenever I hear someone demanding a manager, I can’t’ help but realize that they are really just crying for help. They feel so lost and belittled that they want to make someone else miserable, if only for one moment of feeling like they are in control.
by Danka Leebon
Residential Life Magazine