A couple weeks before Christmas this past year I went out for drinks one Friday afternoon with a good buddy of mine, Mike. As we were walking into the restaurant I noticed a young lady inside coming to the door to leave just as we were getting to it. Because I believe that it is still courteous to hold a door for a woman I opened the door and held it open for her to step through, which she did gladly. But instead of a "Thank You" or exhibiting any gratitude at all she got this noticeable smug look on her now upturned face, walked silently between Mike and me- her body language clearly demonstrating that she considered her self worth to be much more than ours. With absolutely no regard she marched on her merry way as if the village serfs had done their expected function. I said nothing because it really wasnt worth any sort of acknowledgment , but 25 year old Mike turned to the ungrateful twenty-something and barked out loudly at her in front of a courtyard full of people " The words you're looking for bitch are THANK YOU!". She stopped for just a second but then quickly sped away realizing that the serfs might, in fact, be dangerous.
This incident, like so many others, is just another small bit of life in the big city, but isn't it indicative of a trend sweeping our population - one of self-entitlement and delusions of grandeur. People have FACEBOOK,pages because it makes them feel as though they possess their own little celebrity web page. Yeah, I know everyone says it's to keep in touch with friends and family, but really, in 2012 aren't there like a zillion ways to do that at this point? No, it's the "I'm A Celebrity- NO, REALLY I AM" virus that everyone everywhere seems to have contracted and desperate to maintain.An off shoot of this growing misplaced madness is an over-entitled narcissistic personal behavior we all see every day on the roads, in the supermarkets, and in our offices around the DC area. I"ll admit, we've been really fortunate at Eyecentral in McLean to have as well grounded a client base as we do-- our daily exposure to crazed unstable people is quite small considering the population. But, on the second Friday of this new year, a day the office now refers to as FREAKY FRIDAY- we experienced a spike in clients exhibiting this type of irrational behavior which illustrated how we are not immune to its effects.
My first Freaky Friday client was a long time patient of Eyecentral- a middle aged man- interior designer- who's first pair of glasses ever were reading glasses he purchased in 2011.The front desk staff had been leary of Mr.Designer for years citing a volatile nature which had him regularly complaining to the employees more often than not. Personally, I had never experienced this side of him - until Freaky Friday, that is. The reading glasses he purchased in January of 2011 he proceeded to bring back to us three times over the course of the year in pieces. That is actually something we see quite regularly with new glasses wearers. Since they have no exposure to handling glasses they wind up breaking the frames or damaging the lenses more often than long time wearers. But, in Mr. Designers case, he broke the frames over and over then demanded his pound of flesh each time he brought them in to be replaced. Since the frames are guaranteed not to break at Eyecentral we replaced them each time with no hesitation, but he kept insisting it wasnt his handling but poor product quality which caused them to break. As I had said nothing to the ungrateful woman I held the door open for, I said nothing to Mr. Designer in regards to improving his handling of his eyeglasses.
So, when Mr. Designer came in that Freaky friday morning to purchase brand new reading glasses, he'd just lost the third replacement pair a month earlier, I happily offered to pull him a grouping of frames that I knew would hold up better( and make him look better) than the old pair we'd had so many problems with. When I came back to the desk with the first candidates he had somehow found his old reading glass frame on the board somewhere and, (head shake in disbelief) insisted that I re-sell the same frame back to him again. When I asked him to explain to me why he'd consider buying the same frame he'd broken and complained about all of 2011 he first corrected me saying he;d never broken the frames- they actually fell apart from being poor quality.When I suggested that if that were the case it would be even more foolish to consider buying them again he stood his ground and insisted I sell them to him. I offered good naturedly that one of the signs of mental illness was, in fact, repeating the same behavior over and over and getting the same undesired results- that altering behavior might actually give better results. Well, that just set him off. He jumped out of his seat, face the color of beets, and quietly screamed inches from my face "I am the customer and the customer is always right- and you will do as I say!". Anyone who knows me knows it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers, so I countered with " that outdated saying is from the 40's when the majority of the customers werent overly entitled, chemically altered, and self-destructive ego maniacs who make decisions based on irrational thought processes". As you can imagine, my clever observation was not well received.
Mr. Designer stood up, grabbed his coat, asked me all crazy-eyed again if I would sell him the frame he wanted- to which I said I would NOT- and he quickly exited the office sputtering loudly to all in earshot about his rights, his importance, and his individual requests being all that matters. In spite of me trying to get him to see that no rational person would want to repurchase a product that they claimed to be defective, he held firmly to doing just that, almost as if he needed to restart a process that would afford him the best opportunity to bring himself back in front of us this year complaining again about our products or services. Being nearly mentally stable myself I can not fathom why he lost it so totally like he did over something so foolish. And in case you're wondering, the entire interaction with Mr. Designer took less than eight minutes to happen--as if he came in that day determined to have a problem. I finally saw the hair pin anger trigger the staff had been talking about all this time-- then again, I probably got blasted on his Fake Celebrity -I mean FACEBOOK- page, later that day for my incompetence or arrogance.
About 10 minutes after that first fiasco, which I prematurely labeled as our "one nut job of the day" , I was handed a plastic frame by the doctor to get my opinion on whether the frame was still viable or not. It belonged to the woman currently sitting in his chair in the exam room. The frame had been stretched, twisted, contorted, and mutilated like nothing I"d ever seen in my 20 years as an optician. The doc was prepared to tell the woman she'd need to buy a new frame and pair of glasses but I sort of consider myself to be a MASTER ADJUSTER, and I took this pathetic near death frame to be a challenge I couldnt ignore. I set to reheating and reconfiguring it into its original shape, which I , in fact, managed to do after 20 minutes of expert handling.(big self back pat..) It was obvious to me that the frame had been exposed to great amounts of heat and had, simply, melted over and over again over some period of time. I was very proud that I had managed to save the frame and save the patient an extra couple hundred dollars and when she came out of the exam room I expected some degree of happiness. Well, of course you know where this going- being freaky Friday and all.
:"I guess they're better", she sort of muttered disgustedly to me after tossing them roughly onto her face.(I was like "WTF- theyre nearly perfect").I was still trying to come down from Mr. Designers crazy antics minutes earlier so I was determined to make this encounter as civil as I was allowed to . As she sort of weirdly jiggled them around on her face I asked her what had happened to them to make them so unwearable. "You tell me", was what this unpleasant woman with hair the official colors of the Redskins nastily responded to me. "Well," I suggested, "it appears as though they melted from overheating- and not just once but a number of times" to which this clearly ungrateful woman responded, "Well, I don't know how that would have happened since they are my driving glasses and I always leave them in the car!" Again, people WTF???? I thought she might be joking since anyone over the age of ten would know that car interiors get brutal during the summer time, and since she bought the glasses in May of 2011 she had left them inside of her car throughout the months of June and July 2011- the two hottest months EVER on record. She still didnt seem to make ANY connection between heat and their destruction. The front desk staff later told me she'd called on and off for months bitching about the quality of the frames -reporting that they were deteriorating on a daily basis- and she accused us each time of selling her inferior products.(Her frame, actually, is the product of a Danish company renowned the world over for their quality and precision). Then, Ms. Redskins Hair went on to inform me that she'd paid A LOT for her glasses and didnt expect them to perform so poorly for all the money she'd spent. After a quick check, I informed her back that she'd spent $40.00 out of pocket for the glasses her husbands insurance company actually paid the majority for ($385.00) but she remained combative and continued her misplaced criticism of our products and the unsatisfactory reaction by us to her plight.
I finally asked the woman who still made no connection between internal car heat and ruined glasses a simple question. "What would happen if you locked a child or pet into your car for a day during the summer months?And doesnt it make sense that your plastic frames could possibly be damaged as wll by this extreme heat?". She just sort of stared at me with no intention of responding. So frustrated, I said " I would think that an intelligent adult like you, a grown up, would understand that heat is responsible for the glasses being ruined. It's not a function of the quality of the frame". Well, apparently she'd reached her limit with me and she spat out "You do NOT need to speak to me like I am an idiot! "She stood up. "I think we are DONE here." She grabbed the newly revived reading glasses and jammed them roughly into her feed bag of a purse and said to me "I'm just going to keep these shitty glasses until they fall apart again and then I will go elsewhere to buy my next pair". Whereupon ,the woman with maroon and gold hair turned to leave my office. Figuring I had not much to lose I yelled behind her "No need to thank me for fixing your glasses" and of course, she didn't. Just snarled at the staff as she stormed out the door and back out into an unsuspecting world.
Well, I'd managed to have two clients storm out on me back to back -a new first for me in 20 years- and it was only just 10:15 AM . I figured there couldnt possibly be another such encounter on my horizon- but I would be wrong.
When I noticed a sweet looking well attired 80-something woman coming into the office just moments after Ms. Redskins Hair left, I thought to myself" Ah, Thank God, someone who naturally understands grace and decorum".But it was Freaky Friday- What I hadnt counted on was dementia.
I didn't know Mrs. Doubtfire because she was, in fact, not a patient. Her daughter had suggested she walk across the street from her condo to our office and she told the front desk staff she just needed a quick adjustment. It's actually not unusual for people from out of town or those not currently clients to come in and get their glasses adjusted and we're always more than happy to oblige.They brought her back and sat her down in my chair and I quickly sensed a grand reversal or recovery from my last two unpleasant encounters. That small sense of relief dissapeared quickly, though, when I asked her to put her glasses on so I could ascertain what needed to be done to them and instead she pulled an old nasty headband out of her purse. "Oh, it's not for my glasses", she began" I need an adjustment on this antique hairband I purchased off of Ebay last week for $1.00". They won't fit my head correctly and my daughter suggested you might be able to adjust them as you do glasses so that they would fit right". My first reaction was to look for the hidden cameras but since it's my office I knew there weren't any around.Besides, I couldn't be so lucky on Freaky Friday to have this be a Candid Camera type moment. No, in fact, it was real. Mrs. Doubtfire put the old bent dirty-looking headband over her hair- showing me how badly it fit- then handed it to me for me to fix. At first glance it was already clear the thing was decades old. The plastic it was made from had turned into a dry chalky white over its entire surface and the only way to adjust it would have been to hit it with heat from my frame heater- but the fragile already chipped plastic would clearly never survive the adjustment and I told the woman exactly what would happen were I to try and adjust her hairband.
"Are you 100% certain that my headband will break if you try to adjust it?", Mrs. Doubtfire kept asking me over and over each time I told her emphatically that I could not help her with this bizarre request."It's really no good to me the way it is", she said", and, "it only cost me a dollar", she added nearly pleading with me to adjust her new ugly Ebay acquisition. After nearly 20 minutes of incessant begging and being told that a paying client was waiting to see me and getting more irritated by the minute having to listen to this idiotic adjustment conversation, I finally relented. "I take NO responsibility for the outcome of this thing", I said to the old woman who was now grinning from ear to demented ear".I am fairly certain the thing will not make it through the adjustment so you need to be prepared for that", I said to Mrs. Doubtfire ," and I really still do not want to do this ,but I can not spend all day debating this".I fired up the frame heater, put the nasty old headband into it and immediately found myself holding several pieces of what was just seconds earlier a filthy unusable hairband.
"OH MY GOD, YOU BROKE MY NEW HEADBAND!!!" ,Mrs. Doubtfire screamed at the top of her lungs. Calmly I began to go into my "See,I told you that would happen...." speech but she would hear nothing of it. "You broke my headband on purpose because you didn't want to adjust it in the first place!!, she accused. (My third "WTF" moment of this short day) and now I was becoming less amused and accommodating by the moment. "Uh, I told you at least A MILLION TIMES that this old cracked headband would not be able to stand the heat necessary to adjust it, yet you insisted relentlessly that I at least try, so I did as you asked. I would have preferred you just take it and leave." Mrs.Doubtfire would hear none of it continuing to accuse me of breaking her band on purpose. When she insisted that I admit that I broke her toxic looking headband, probably stolen off a corpse years earlier, I admitted to only realizing that I should never have gotten out of bed earlier that day.Mrs. Doubtfire grabbed the broken pieces of her $1.00 headband and left my office muttering she'd never get another headband like this again EVER and I told her that made us even as I"d never get the last thirty minutes of my life back that she'd just wasted.
The man who'd been waiting impatiently like forever ran back to me as she was leaving and loudly laughed to me, "Well, that was the damndest thing I ever DID hear.," he kidded, "Did you bus that crazy bat in or did she actually come in on her own??"By the time we both finished laughing about the idiocy of what I'd just experienced and picked him out some great new frames I realized that I had just experienced my first uncrazy non-batshit appointment of this Freaky Friday.Finally!! We also ended his appointment with some new Eyecentral rules---I will not, any under circumstances- no matter how much you plead or beg- consider adjusting any non-frame items including but not limited to headbands, shoes, jewelry, tupperware, furniture, and holiday ornaments. Pretty much anything not an eyeglass frame- I learned my lesson about trying to work outside the box and help someone who asked for help.Next time I"ll just say "NO" and move on.
The old woman that Friday stormed out never even acknowledging that my original refusal to work on her headband was done in her best interest. I knew the item would break and I figured it would be better that she leave with it intact. Instead, she chose to see the breakage of her $1.00 piece of head garbage as a cold deliberate act by me, which brings me back to the original premise of this piece. A growing number of people are beginning to view their realities in any way which works most profitably for themselves alone and not understanding when things are being suggested or offered for their own best interests or overall happiness. Instead these sorts of people see healthy alternatives offered to them outside their own original requests as purely a refusal to do what they want. The hypothesis that we all have nothing better to do than screw up their days or make their lives more complicated indicates that these poor souls actually believe they are each "centers of the universe" - disregarding opinions by experts or advice from people who really care.
If he had been a rational adult, Mr. Designer would have already concluded that replacing a frame which broke four times in one year with the exact same frame again was truly a bad idea. Ms. Redskins Hair found it easier to blame faulty products and poor customer service over any action of her own which could have been caused the destruction of her self-proclaimed "expensive glasses". Mrs. Doubtfire chose to see the poor end result with her antique headband as some sort of weird payback by me instead of realizing I"d tried to talk her out of letting me do anything for nearly 30 minutes- me figuring it was better she leave with an intact item-yes, nasty and toxic -but intact. And it was a headband for GODS sake!!. In each of these cases, the words each of these people should have been looking for were "Thank You"- certainly not the inane childish rants they left our office muttering that Freaky Friday.
Fortunetly, the remainder of that bizarre Friday contained clever and enjoyable people. So, by the end of the day, the beginning had already begun to blur a bit, although the staff did get a few laughs going over it once more before leaving for the weekend .One co-worker suggested I write about how deranged some people can get.
And to all you smart, funny, intelligent, and yes, relatively sane people who make up the other 99.6% of our clientele I want to take the time right now to realize that the words I"m looking for are "THANK YOU!" for myself and the rest of our great staff. You make coming into work and putting up with the rare Freaky friday people more bearable. Thank You for making our optical dispensary one of the most successful and busiest in the Metro DC area. Thanks for adding something special to our practice everyday and for becoming such ongoing amazing sources of referrals throughout the community. We are all smart enough at Eyecentral to recognize and appreciate it. And most of you know that if any of you came in with some random strange piece of headware or footware and asked me to adjust it, that I ,more than likely, would, in fact, try to do it-- for you!
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