When I was in Venice with my sister and her husband, we stopped at an outdoor café for lunch. The wait staff, all women, were Chinese. I don’t know if they were having trouble with the language or were just inexperienced, but they were struggling — getting orders wrong, forgetting to bring silverware.
At one point, a man sitting at a table near us yelled across the restaurant, “YOUNG LADY! BRING ME A FORK!” The server rushed to his table with some utensils wrapped in a napkin, which you would think would end the uproar. But no. The man continued to berate the woman in a booming voice. Everyone turned to stare, startled and uncomfortable.
He was an enormous man, with a large, florid face and gigantic pink hands that looked like puffy down gloves. His accent was Dutch. And he was on a role—or thought he was. His voice roared across the café and into the street. I glanced over to see a little boy on the sidewalk look at the man in stark terror, and pull at his mother to get away.
The manager of the restaurant did what any good manager should: He hurried over and asked the man how he could help him. But the big pink man was not to be appeased. “This place is CRAP!” he bellowed. He turned to passersby on the street. “Don’t eat here! It’s shit!” On and on he went.
I wondered if this puffy pink man thought of himself as some kind of king. Did abusing young women and terrifying a little boy make him feel righteous? Powerful? Important? How wrong could he be? Everyone in the café was staring at him, but not in admiration. They were rolling their eyes, shaking their heads. This loudmouth was no king: he was a clown.
Unfortunately, he isn’t alone in his belief that, if someone isn’t doing their job right, you have a god-given right to insult them. He may have been an unusually egregious example, but he was far from the only person to bully a worker.
People in service jobs get it the worst of it. Wait staff get barked at even when the problem has nothing to do with their own job—such as the food not being well prepared. I’ve seen a bank teller reduced to tears by an enraged customer simply for following bank rules she had no choice but to obey. And I once witnessed a shopper, ticked off about the price of a product, call a supermarket checker a “fat heifer.” I wanted to take that checker in my arms. She looked as if her spirit were going to cave in.
But you don’t have to be in the service occupations to be abused by customers or clients. I know physicians who’ve suffered terrible language from patients, and have a clinical-psychologist friend who was seriously threatened by one.
We college professors get it, too, sometimes, although not usually to our faces. There was, for example, the student who called me a bitch on some professor-rating website. The actual phrasing she used was “angry b-woman,” but only because the site wouldn’t let her use the word she wanted. Apparently, she didn’t realize that calling someone an angry bitch on the Internet made her sound, well, angry.
Now, God knows I’ve taught my share of crappy classes in my long teaching career, and infuriated a few students along the way (my philosophy of teaching is that if you don’t tick off an occasional student, you’re not doing it right). But all I could think when I came across this student’s comment was, Wow. A woman in her twenties, and she’s handling anger like a 2-year old.
That’s the thing with all these yellers and swearers and pink puffy men. They get the wrong pizza or take a bad class and instead of saying, “You know, you really must improve your performance. I’m paying for this service and deserve better,” they throw temper tantrums. It’s as if they don’t know how to be grown-ups. As if they haven't learned that insulting people never got anything done.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...