Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Crackheads ~ Youth Edition

So it’s Christmas Eve and as I write this, in less than one hour, it’ll be officially Christmas Day. As such, I’m suddenly reminded of the times when I was a kid, and I was granted the opportunity to stay up until midnight where I was allowed to open one present before the morning. Back then, as most children are, I was excitable and this ritual happened every year like clockwork. As I steadily approach a quarter of a century, however, this Christmas tradition and the excitement accompanying it has proceeded to dwindle. And maybe it’s because I’m older and because I know all the secrets of Christmas now (or the fact that as I write this I can feel the onset of a cold coming on) that this time of year just doesn’t seem so special anymore.

I mean, everyone talks about the holiday spirit – the chance to eat, drink, give and be merry. And some people truly have it. For example, on facebook, a friend of mine organised a charitable affair by collecting hats, scarves and gloves and donating them to the homeless. Commendable stuff really. But I think that as we get older that unless we have children directly in our midst or unless we’re devout Christians or family men and women, the message of true Christmas cheer gets lost in translation. And then there are the people that make you scrunch up your face in disbelief and wonder ‘No seriously! What is up with that?’. And I’m not talking about the Scrooges and Scroogettes. I’m talking about the people who seem to have no sense.

As my contribution to the dinner table this year, it was my job to make dessert so I decided to bake a cake. Just as I was about the start, I realised that the butter had expired so decided to pop out to pick some up. In true British fashion, it was raining so I donned my trackies, hoody, boots, scarf, coat and umbrella and proceeded to make the descent down the road. As I was walking, I spotted three people across the road, dressed in a similar fashion to myself and couldn’t help by wonder if they too were trekking down the hill to pick up some last minute titbits.

How wrong I was.

A loud noise later and I saw that one of them had managed to get a hold of one of the large bins on wheels. Two seconds later, said culprit had pushed one of the bins into the road and rather callously pushed it back again where it rather loudly fell against the pavement edge. By then, I realised that these people weren’t like me at all. They weren’t even drunk. They were youths with nothing better to do on Christmas Eve than ransack public property. It only got worse though when said youth decided to push the large compactor into the centre of the road…and leave it there. By then, I’m thinking ‘what the fuck?

I mean I wish I could have snapped a picture or taken a video or something, but people like this are wicked in nature (no doubt they would have chased my down the road) as clearly they were looking to cause a public catastrophe tonight. But I just don’t understand why it’s amusing to cause trouble. What goes through the mind of people when they think bad is good and good is bad? What is the purpose of defacing property? And why would anyone want to deliberately cause a car crash – possibly even taking someone’s life and cause a family grievance this Christmas?

Last year in August, the riots happened where people, young and old, took to the streets to loot, pillage and destroy public property. It derived from a peaceful protest gone savage and people took it upon themselves to join in with the chaos. In psychology, we call it minority influence. People attempted to justify their actions by implying that they were ‘taking back their taxes’, fighting on behalf of the Mark Duggan case or just fighting for minority and/or poverty stricken groups in general. It’s all stupid really because I don’t think setting someone’s family business on fire justifies these means at all.

But maybe we’re not supposed to understand these people - these kids who think playing cruel jokes are funny. If you recall from an earlier post of mine, the kids in my class used to put pins in the ground hoping that someone might sit on them. Similarly, throughout the UK, we’ve had the Happy Slapping epidemic, an increase in knife crime, turf battles and the like. I know people who are frightened to raise their children here for fear of what they might become. At the same time, however, we’re the adults here are we not? Why is it that we’re so afraid to deal with these youths who seem to have no sense? Why do we let them trample up and down the streets at night when they should be indoors with their families helping to prepare this year’s Christmas dinner instead?

The outside world may be full of negative influences, but I truly believe that stability starts with family. So even though this is coming from me, who feels that she is not as close to her family as she should be, surround yourself with loved ones this Christmas. Hold them close. Treasure and appreciate them (for all their flaws as well) and have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Call of the Wild ~ When Animals Attack

If I haven’t already made it painfully obvious (in actuality, I don’t think I have now that I think about it but), I hate my job.

I mean, people will always whinge in glee about how much they hate their jobs; how much they crave to sing “thank gawd it’s Friday” at the end of the week so that they can kick off their work boots and swap ‘em for a pair of trainers or kitten heels; and ultimately, how much they hate that Monday feeling when they have to drag themselves out of bed for another week long haul of daily grind. But I mean really. I hate it. And nowadays, it’s almost entirely the fault of the clientele.

Now I know quality customer service. I can feel it. Granted, I’m sure most people can. And I know how important it is in any business, but the more I work where I work, the more the quality that I acquired during my year stint as a coffee shop girl begins to dwindle. And while I have stated, and will continue to state, that difficult situations will make you stronger, there are just some situations that I feel are a little too mentally and emotionally draining. And while cock-ups are inevitable – we’re all human – some people just aren’t willing to compromise. And when things fail, they morph into sub-par human beings and scratch and hiss and roar at the top of their voices.

Now I’m not guilty. I’ve animorphed in the past. When there’s been a cock up at the doctor’s surgery or at the student loan’s company or a mysterious charge to my mobile phone bill, I’m the first person to call up somebody in demand to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, I rarely stay angry for long. I’m not a very confrontational person as it is and I tend to find what I lack in verbal skills, I make up for in writing (but I guess you guys can be the judge of that). Nevertheless, not everyone is like me. Some people are quick to point the finger at the first person they’re put through to without any real consideration as to where or who the problem lie with. And as I said, it seems natural to see red first before actual common sense sets in, but when you really think about it – does shouting really help the situation?

Example one. In the past, my internet service provider was TalkTalk. In my honest opinion, they’ve got nothing on Virgin or even Sky but they seem to be doing quite well apparently. We were having continuous problems connecting to the internet. So I called them up. According to them, there were no problems in the area and our connection was fine so I decided to call technical support who indicated the problem could be with my phone jack. I must have called them a number of times – insert issue number one; 0845 number = extra expense. As usual, you’re met with that annoying computerised voice when really you’re desperate to speak to an actual person – insert issue number two; automated phone calls equal further expense. I must have spoken to at least three different people – insert issue number three; lengthy discussions with relatively unhelpful staff – and by then I was getting frustrated. What can I say? I need my internet. Hello! My name’s Melissa. And I’m an addict.

Anyway, at this point, I decided to call customer services threatening to cancel my contract. I started off all guns blazing. And yet, the woman on the other end was really nice about it. Thus, the beast clawing to come out was restrained and after the entire conversation, I couldn’t help but think to myself – ‘Why am I getting mad at her for? She didn’t do anything’.

Ultimately, the situation and situations like this always seem to get resolved – even if it is for better or for worse. But I have to ask myself, what is the point of going in all guns blazing, when simply raising the issue in a firm, but diplomatic fashion works just as well?

Example two. Remember I said that I’d legally changed my name? Well I had to have my medical records updated. They issued me with a medical card which had spelt my name incorrectly so I contacted the designated channels and they said they’d rectify it. Low and behold, a week later, they issued me with a second medical card…containing the same problem. Great stuff.

Now I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I figured I’d write them a letter about it and post the incorrect medical card back to them. A little under two weeks later, I receive a response indicating where the problem lie and that it would be rectified. A couple of days after that, my new card arrived. Problem solved. And I didn’t even need to get leery with anybody. A few words on a piece of paper and it was sorted. I’m seriously going to start adopting this method more often.

Now I’m not sure how it works in other cultures, but I’ve realised – heck, I know – that in the west, we are some of the most selfish sons of bitches ever. If the boat isn’t cruising smoothly, we’re gunning for somebody. We pick up our spears, don our war paint and start attacking the closest person in sight. And if it’s not that poor unsuspecting customer service representative from British Gas, it’s our nearest and dearest who have to put up with us, whether we take a minute or thirty to air out of grievances, or execute an unintentional tongue lashing because we’re a little more irritable than usual at that particular moment in time.

But while airing out grievances is a good thing – we’re humans, we’re social creatures; we need to vent – is howling uncontrollably the best method? It certainly might make some of us feel better, but rather than raise our own blood pressure and give that poor unsuspecting recipient a phenomenal ear ache, isn’t it easier to talk it out like civilised human beings?

Obviously, this is wishful thinking however. Not all those who work in customer service actually know how to serve customers. So we get frustrated with them, especially if we feel like we’re going around in circles. But after being on the receiving end of many a furious customer, whether it was genuinely my fault or not – I can’t help but wish for an ideal at times. Because I’m human. I want that rocky road to be void of craters. I want to live a stress free existence.

I want, I want, I want.

Ultimately, I think that’s the problem here. And so long as the heart wants what it wants, I’m sure that there'll be a time in the future where I’ll forget everything that I’ve written here just because some tosser overcharged me at the supermarket.