Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Last Straw

Kristen-to-the-Maxx doesn't think that all people are equally capable of all types of error and evil. She likes to sit at the bar and read the newspaper and make observations about all the lunacy that goes on in the world. I at least say that I think we're all equally capable of any heinousness, due to total depravity, but I don't think we're necessarily equally likely to commit all the same errors and evil, due to our different personalities. We got into kind of a heated discussion about this once, because she was quite sure I, for example, wouldn't do a certain thing she had just read about. I maintained that, while I couldn't imagine being inclined to whatever it was, I couldn't truthfully say I was incapable of it. I have a maybe nearly superstitious fear that if I ever claim that I would never do something, I am forthwith doomed to do it. This isn't entirely unfounded, because every so often I startle myself by doing (or at least really really wanting to do) something I theretofore never would have contemplated.

Last Saturday was one of those times. There's a long version of the story, but the short version is that at the very end of an unusually stressful shift, a customer demanded his money back because one of us hadn't given him the right sized straw for his drink. This was, in fact, something of a customer service error and, from that perspective, our fault. It was also a pretty big deal to make about a straw.

The problem was, by the time this irate personage had confronted us about it, I was so stressed about other stuff that I was practically hyperventilating. By the time he walked out the door, I was even more furious than he had been. If Rich hadn't dragged me into the back room, I probably would have thrown iced coffee. In public. And if he hadn't given me a hug (which I really really didn't want, given that I was so mad, but which was clearly the smartest thing under the circumstances), I absolutely would have started slamming lockers and punching pounds of coffee beans back there. I've gotten mad before, but not like that.

I was mad because I was stressed, and I was mad because I felt disrespected, and I was madder because I felt my colleagues had been disrespected. I was also mad that someone could make such a fuss about a straw.

Then I realised I was making a bigger fuss about a straw. I don't know what that guy was or is up against to make him care about straws so deeply, but it wasn't really the point under the circumstances. The point was that I had opted to let whatever he was dealing with turn me into a monster. I became hateful and violent, which, in my more self-righteous moments, I never thought I was capable of being. Also, he actually came into the store again last night and I found to my chagrin that I was too afraid to face him. I don't like to think that I'm a coward either.

People say, "Don't be so hard on yourself." And we've been able to joke about this since. It's becoming in-store lore already, and in the lore I don't look as bad as I really did at the time. But still, sometimes it's not being hard on yourself to take a good hard look at the depths of personal darkness. The stuff that people see can be bad enough, but often it's only the tip of the iceberg, and sometimes you do or feel something that opens the cellar door just for you. Even if no one else can see how dark it is down there, you can. And then it's hard and scary to look, but it's not unreasonable or unwarranted to do it.

Sometimes I think God lets me get in touch with my total depravity so that I can stop subconsciously thinking I'm incapable of certain things and therefore capable of taking care of everything myself. I like to think I'm good all by myself, and then it turns out it was Him all along. When my pride gets its kneecaps kicked in and is no longer blocking the doorway, He can lead me down the stairs with a flashlight or two and get a little spring cleaning done.


the item said...

The brighter the light the darker the shadow.

Jenn said...

John--thanks. And . . . bummer.

Jenn said...

Here's a question, though, for you or anyone else:

Even if your aphorism is true, does it necessarily mean that the light and the shadow are in the same place or from the same source? (I'm not talking about myself here.) The sun, for example, is not the shadow. But it highlights (or even creates) light and dark on the things around it. And what are the metaphorical implications of THAT?

Any thoughts? Anyone?

Craver Vii said...

It reminds me of something some old church friends used to say, "Except for God's grace, that could be me."

To say that something is so bad I could not do it, is scary to me. I am afraid of getting a lesson if I get so bold as to communicate to God that I don't need Him. What if He withdraws a measure of grace to teach me a lesson?

I need thee every every hour, O precious Lord I pray...

Jenn said...

Craver--thanks for "getting it."

the item said...

I stole that aphorism from psychology.

Jenn said...

Yes. I know. I'm sure psychology appreciates you giving it credit, though.