Sunday, September 20, 2015

That day that I Louis C. K.ed

I shared this on my Facebook the other day. When I did so, I did while mostly thinking about it from the side of the person who was hurt, not the person who had committed the hurt. 

Yesterday, I had an interesting experience. I was volunteering at an event where I was selling programs. At one point, I had 3 people approach me nearly simultaneously. From directly in front of me, a gentleman approached, and there was a woman right behind him. Mere moments later, as the first man reached into his pocket for money, a second man approached on my right, asking if I had singles to be able to make change for his $2 bills. (Programs are $5.) I did not, as I had not received any singles so far in the day, but the man already pulling out his cash said he had a couple of singles, and would be able to help the man to my right. 

The man in front of me, with the woman on his heels, purchased two programs, handed two one dollar bills to the man on the right, took the two dollar bill, and walked away. The man on my right then handed me one of the singles and two two dollar bills, took his program, and walked away. Then the woman stepped up.

"How much?" she asked. 

"Five dollars." I replied.

"Well, you just lost a sale. I was here before that man, you should have waited on me first. Stop giving preferential treatment to men." 

I had begun to interject with an "I'm sorry" - you see, I had thought she was with the first gentleman. She wasn't interested, however, and walked away. 

I was left a little dumbfounded. I certainly had not intended any slight, and there was only a few seconds between the first man walking away and the second walking away. Less than 10 seconds. I didn't view any of it as preferential treatment, as the first man and the second man held the bulk of conversation between themselves, while I waited to hand them their programs in exchange for the cash. Frankly, I was offended by her reaction. I'm standing alone with a cart full of programs (we usually have at least 2 or 3 of us together, but we were shorthanded, so I was flying solo) and three people come up within mere moments of one another. I'm making eye contact and responding to direct questions, smiling, and trying to be as helpful as I can, and it wasn't good enough for this woman who perceived my (volunteer!) work as insufficient. 

As I thought back about the entire exchange, trying to determine what went wrong, this quote came back to my mind. She was hurt by my actions, or at least offended enough by them that she was going to stand there long enough to make her statement. While I didn't intentionally slight her, she felt slighted, and that was real enough to her. 

Was I responsible for her feelings? No, I don't think so, but that doesn't mean that her feelings were invalid. I hope that she felt better after scolding me, and I hope that just maybe she stopped at one of the other spots where the school kids who we are selling the programs to support were standing and bought one from them. 

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