On Keeping My Mouth Shut
During the past two years of my clinical counseling education, I've had it pointed out to me more than once that I have a propensity to rescue--that I somehow feel it is my job to jump in and defend the downtrodden and insulted, even when my "help" might be unnecessary and/or unwanted. I've given this a lot of thought and know it comes from the feeling that, as a child, I was not protected, that people stayed silent when they should have spoken up. I understand my impulse but also, now, realize that it's not always my job to step in it (with adults), that people should be allowed to handle their own problems in their own ways, that not everyone welcomes my assistance. So.
Last night, as a reward for another semester down and all my new new-found enlightenment, I went to get my nails did. Mani/pedi, as it were. I arrived at the salon around 7, and they close at 8, so it was pretty dead. Just me and another lady, getting her toes done in the chair beside me. She was around my age, unremarkable, leaning back with her eyes closed. I treated myself to the deluxe edition and was enjoying my third round of leg massage, feeling like the Queen of Cobb County.
I was a happy camper, reading about Steven Tyler in People, watching my neighbors come and go for take-out Chinese next door, when the tiny, young probably-owner of the shop asked me to go ahead and pay before I got polished, which is the usual MO. While she was at it, she collected payment from the other lady (let's call her Miss Trunchbull*) too. I gave her cash and Trunchbull gave her a debit card.
A few minutes later, the probably-proprietress returned with Trunchbull's card and receipt. Upon examining it, Trunchbull announced, "This is INCORRECT! It says $33 and my pedicure was only $19!" Then I said, "Oh, she mixed ours up," to which Trunchbull replied, "UN-AC-CEPTABLE!" I was afraid she'd call the magistrate.
The wrong-doer, with her beautiful little face, began apologizing profusely in broken English, which would have disarmed a normal person, but Miss Trunchbull, as it turned out, was no normal person: "In your HASTE to clear the tab," said she, "you made a CUSTOMER very unhappy!" It was clear this customer had never gotten a birthday present or had her name called in the Magic Mirror, as it was such a short trip from unhappy to very.
By now, the criminal-manicurist was on the phone, speaking in her native tongue to someone about correcting the grievous error. It took more than a minute, as even I could make out that she was flustered and having to repeat herself. When she came back over, she explained to TB, "14 dollars will be refunded to your account, but it takes one to two days. I'm so sorry." TB took the volume up a couple of notches: "I am not PLEASED! I realize 14 dollars might not seem like a lot of money, but it is MY MONEY, money that I will not have access to for ONE OR TWO DAYS! ALL BECAUSE YOU WERE RUSHING!"
By now, I was eyeing my purse, wondering how much cash I had left. I would just give her all of it to shut the fukup. I had one woman working on my hands and one on my feet, and they kept their eyes cast down except to give me an occasional wide-eyed look that means what-the-hell in every language. No one interfered. We were waiting it out. But TB wasn't finished; she had to practice her condescension: "I am not ANG-GREE at you. I just want you to THINK about this in the future and don't be in such a hurry! Then these things will not happen!"
Somewhere in the middle of all this, I noticed the teddy-bear-rainbow clip-on badge hanging from her collar that indicated she was a school teacher. Inside my heart, I wept for her students. And I don't even like kids. I imagined the poor elfin creatures banished to the broom closet for sneezing or breaking their pencil lead. She'd make them chew on their hair and drink their spit during snack time.
Tirade over, finally, she leaned down to the woman holding her feet, who'd been steadily working during the outburst. "You always do such a good job," she told her, in a sweet-as-pie voice that proved she gives to charity and brakes for squirrels.
Through it all, I held my tongue, but silently I cursed her: In the next week or two, you're going to do something incredibly stupid, because you're in a hurry, or on your period, or thinking about why your husband left you. You're going to lose your car keys and find them in the refrigerator, or roll your Ford Tempo into the car in front of you at a stop light, or knock over the Entenmann's display at BiLo. And someone is going to be royally inconvenienced because you missed their parent conference, or they've gotta go to Ding King, or they have to mop up the powdered sugar. But they're going to tell you it's ok, no big deal, could happen to anyone, and you will have to live with that.
* Other Ideas: