A wave of euphoria flooded over me as I stepped out the door on - hopefully - my last ever day of a job in the service industry. I mean no offense to anyone in service jobs, I have had many. The thing I breathed the biggest lungful of relief about wasn't the hours, the night buses home, the correcting of the always wrongly calculated hourly wage. It was the stinking, horrible, general public. The very same public who I now deal with on a daily basis. My friends, people I chat to at work, myself.
The public aren't a separate entity to the cities population, but we seem to hold the ability to turn into total, obnoxious morons when faced with someone working in the position of service, whether that be bar, transport, or shop. The clue is in the name. We live in a society of servitude that has long since waved goodbye to the acceptance that we do. No one holds slaves any more, very few have fully staffed houses. We would shudder to think that we still relied on this model of superiority. And yet we don't seem to be able to shake off the power surge and torrent of abuse we are capable of hurling about to members of the service industry.
One huge cause of this, is the pathetic phrase I have heard myself from wimpy managers time and again, "the customer's always right". As long as we smile and offer them a free coffee next time, who cares if they've told us they hope our mum dies of cancer, the company won't get a complaint letter, we get to keep our job and then the irritating advice that always comes up, "you're better than that, don't rise to it". I'm not better than that, I want to throw them through the nearest window. The problem is, we as the general public know this rule. We know that if someone is standing slightly in the way of what we want, or are enraged that our coffee order is wrong, we know they have a choice between being delightful to us or risking getting a talking down. With this in mind, or at least subconscious, people feel perfectly capable of throwing up abuse they wouldn't dare say to a stranger in the street.
In my job on the cloakroom of a London bar I was called a b****, a c***, a t*** and a t***ing, b****y c***ing s***. Mainly this was because it was in my job description to charge people five pounds on the door. On trying to stop one pushy woman from entering without paying she screamed at my manager, "if this bitch talks to me one more time I'm going to smash her face in". And this was an upmarket bar, this was a well dressed business woman who I imagine if she had made it far enough into the club wasn't on the search for a fight with her fellow bar frequenters. She honestly believed she was allowed to speak to me like that, it was a short burst, most probably born of frustration throughout the day. Her inner ogre blasting out and passing onto someone who wasn't of a level for her to care about. On her way downstairs - ushered by security - she threw her parting shot, "you do realise you're a f***ing whore right, and that's why you take people's coats for a living?!"
If I was a whore, I'd be taking more than your coat and I'd be earning a hell of a lot more money. I know this to laugh about now, but it gets to you. In a slow, burning a hole in your soul kind of a way. By the end of the night I was a snarling rottweiler, snapping at people as they came through the doors and throwing hangers about the cloakroom like a maniac.
It's the snobbiness, the expectation that because you are in a position of serving, you are in some way lower. People who have grown up without ever having to take a service job fail to understand that the majority of these staff are doing it to supplement something else. That birdbrain you're screaming at for forgetting your soya milk was meant to be heated to 5 degrees more than usual is probably concentrating more on their own degree than the degrees of your precious morning drink.
So why do we do it? And yes, I do it too. Not so much the personal insult variety, I tend to do they eye rolling at jobsworths (who are actually just people relaying what they've been told to do so they can keep on doing it and paying their rent). This too is referred exasperation. Companies are so huge that you never deal with the person who got the thing wrong in the first place. Often that thing is a computer, leaving some baffled sod to read pre ordained lines and try to talk you through something they don't even fully get. It's a crazy set up, it makes me furious and often it makes me shout. And it's only when I leave that I remember I've abused a total innocent. Whether it's frustration from life in general, and the nearest, indefensible punch bag seems like the safest bet, or frustration at the smiling/dying face of the faceless companies representative, we seem incapable of controlling ourselves. I'm not sure I'll ever grow out of it, though I'm weirdly pleased to have been on the receiving end of it. At least I know, when I'm standing red in the face, waving my hands around screaming about full names and complaint letters, the person I'm screaming at is slowly zoning out, caring very little for what I'm saying and wishing I'd shut up. And that nine times out of ten, there is a small crowd forming behind me, rolling their eyes and laughing.