Friday, April 9, 2010

Experience as Empathy and Patience

Yesterday was among the more annoying days I have had in some time.

This day was filled with running errands, the kinds of things that people do who do not see anything wrong with prioritizing taking care of themselves (ie normal people and not me). Stopping at the pharmacy, making a deposit, filling up the gas tank, getting the driver's license renewed, stopping at the post office, getting the car washed, calling in to set up a doctor's appointment.

Almost every single one of these experiences is set up in a way that is meant to be relatively convenient, yet every single one also had a road-block of some kind that kept it from living up to this idea. Let's begin with the pharmacy; I stop to pick up my prescription, which I had recently switched to this pharmacy, as it is very close to my apartment, and family owned. Seemed like a nice little place, and a good opportunity to support local business. Short story kept short, when I politely questioned why only one month had been filled and not the three I am used to, I was made to feel stupid for not knowing why and for inquiring about it. The tone of voice in which I was addressed made it feel like the answers to my questions were obvious. Not very nice treatment for when you feel like you are doing a small business a favor by switching from big (and in that way, often much more convenient on many levels) to a small. I guess this situation is a good example of the fact that small business is not always better than big, and this is a black and white I should allow to grey a bit more here and there.

Onward. The next stop was SuperAmerica. nothing 'out of the ordinary' to report here, so forward it was to the DMV. Yes, the Department of Motor Vehicles. I figure I am being smart by stopping in there around noon on a Thursday. Who could be there? Just a couple people skipping over quick on their lunch break, right? No sir. The place was packed (I would insert 'as usual here,' if I had only had the foresight to just relegate the DMV to its proper place as a constant rat race). While my number did come up rather quickly, the amount of time I had between pulling it and getting called to the counter was barely enough for me to find the proper form without assistance, let alone get it filled out. In the midst of all the hubub and shuffling, my picture ended up 'distracted third-grade kid,' but am I really going to ask for the gal to take it again? Even if you are vain, it is not the common chump who seeks out opportunities to prove it. I guess my ID will just have to feature, until I am 30 and have to renew again, me looking like a cotton candy truck just pulled by.

The rest of the day's experiences included a grand total of about an hour and a half on the telephone, skipping between the insurance company, the doctors office and the physical therapy office, all of whom seemed to have someone else to refer me to and different ideas of what information I needed. Who knew that you had to make so many calls to so many parties who want so many different things, all to make a single appointment?

This is where purpose comes into this entry and complaining slips away. Who knew? A lot of people know, and that is something that a mostly-healthy gal like me often has the fortunate situation of being able to forget. I so rarely have to deal with the healthcare system, I find myself quire removed from the every-day realities of getting it to work for you when you are in need. I am not touching upon this as an entrance point into further complaint, this time centered around healthcare, but rather, as a way to suggest that people could use some more empathy in their lives.

I was entirely frustrated and practically pulling out my own hair after a series of transfers and disconnections, but somewhere within the frenzy, it clicked; though going through these experiences is in no way pleasant, not everything in life is. Additionally, there are plenty of people who have to deal with these 'unpleasantries' on a daily basis, and many through no fault of their own. While I can't say that I would want to spend an hour and a half on the telephone trying to make an appointment every day, I am realizing that there are some people who have to do this, which is a good reminder of both exercizing patience, as well as trying to generally give people the benefit of the doubt - who knows, among the people you pass each day, who has had to deal with something as frustrating at this, or worse?

Additionally, this negative experiences throughout the day served another purpose; contrast. While a good portion of the day did in fact annoy me as I previously suggested, there were a couple situations that made me smile and appreciate the little things. The first was my stop to the post office. I had already had a couple of difficult encounters previous, and while this experience may have been as pleasant as it was because I was ready for something on par with my earlier run-ins, I'd rather chose to believe it was so because the person I interacted with was a good one. I came in to drop off a change of address form, and had a couple questions with it (because honestly, can I really do anything without accompanying it with some inquires? It's just not my style :) ). I was prepared to once again be made to feel stupid, but experienced quite the opposite. The counter worker, who has been there since at least when I started working at Muffuletta and most likely much longer than that, was simply just knowledgable and happy to share that knowledge with me. I have interacted with her several times before, but there was something just releaving about her earnestness this time. I walked out of the post office feeling refreshed, my sense of good in people renewed.

The second experience was another that was certainly not out of the ordinary, but well-needed and well-placed within a day that had been full of the opposite; it was just a nice, pleasant check-out guy at Rainbow. I am not saying we had a full-blown conversation (though I'd sure be happy to - I often notice myself wishing I could learn to stop talking once in awhile), and the words exchanged were inconsequential - I cannot even remember what they were, less than 24 hours later. What I am saying is that his amiable demeanor was refreshing, and that these little occurences really do make a difference in the quality of how we experience and enjoy our time within a day.

To conclude, in less words, such daily encounters are important, and not just because they are a result of necessity. These encounters remind us to empathize, to be patient, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to enjoy the casualities that are simply refreshing. And if nothing of this sort comes out, at least you have some good grumblies, which go well shaken and served in the company of friends who work in customer service.

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