Irriitable customer leaves me feeling a little bruised
April 28, 2022 2:52 PM   Subscribe

It's not like he was wrong, but he could have said it nicer.

I work in a municipal building where my main job is checking people into a computer. I have many other duties, but the main one was was learning this program, and checking people in. I may check in as many 250 people in a 4 hour shift.

Now today I asked Mr. Irritable if he had been her before. Besides checking in, we must create a new persona if they had not been there. He immediately told me "he has come here before and you always spoke to me." and then he got that irritated look on his face. My first mistake is always getting defensive, so I merely said I see hundreds of people a week, and I'm bad with faces. (Truth.) Then I apologized for the (non-existent) delay, but no groveling, right?

It's not like he's wrong. He has a very VERY common last name and a very odd first name.

Now about me: I take medication every single day which keeps me alive and functioning but does affect my mental sharpness. I have PTSD and some other diagnoses I can't spell as well as being Highly Sensitive which I consider an asset, not a drawback. I am upsides of 50 where I think cognitive decline begins (if not sooner). Further, when I was admitted to hospital for pneumonia, the doctor read my O2 and yelled, 'This machine is broken--get me another one." So I understand it was pretty low.

I feel as if I am damn lucky to be up and walking around most days, and have radically accepted my cognitive limitations, and try to make up for them with courtesy, politeness, humor, and warmth. (Yeah I know, in a government workspace...)

Another man said, "You should know my name by now!" Why? Because you're the only white Republican over 65 in here?

I am really doing my best, and I will be unpacking this with my therapist tomorrow why my childhood trauma still affects me to this day to an extent, but I would like your thoughts, not because it's easy to say after the fact, but what I could say, and how I could handle it again. Because it will go on & on.

It's really a great part time job with an excellent manager, (I got a $1 raise after six months there) I am POSITIVE he does not want to hear this. I would like to present myself as competent, composed, and mature, and I'd say that includes not going to the manager every time someone hurts my feelings.

I hope you can all be kind, because I am a tender little thing and I am feeling bruised. Geez I already know how to hate myself. I'd rather get better and better every day.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock to Work & Money (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Customer service is a sucky job, there's not much more than that. A surprising number of people are complete assholes to people like you who aren't in a position to complain about it. I would practice a stock response like a smile and a bright "Ah yes, of course!"

Some people walk around thinking they are the main character in everyone else's story, there's no point in trying to convince them otherwise. Just smile and move on to the next person.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on April 28, 2022 [43 favorites]

People are so shitty! And entitled! And bitchy! You're checking in 250 people in 4 hours -- OF COURSE you don't know the one guy's name, and didn't recognize the other guy. My god, who would?!? They're being awful, and you're in a tough job (as so many of us have been at one point or another). Hang in there, remember that assholes are gonna asshole, and practice that fake smile I'm sure you've got to deploy a million times a day.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:05 PM on April 28, 2022 [19 favorites]

I'm in HR and like my job well enough and have a great manager and the company I work for is real good, I'm compensated fairly, etc etc.

A couple days ago I asked one of the folks on my team "do you think we could still be HR if we just, like, got rid of all these fricking employees??!?" and he was like "lol I'll ask [boss]."

No matter what other positives there are, any job where you have to interact with people in a service capacity is just the fucking worst sometimes. This is a True Fact of life, a guaranteed certainty, death, taxes, newton's third law, and the often enraging behavior of the hoi polloi. It's got nothing to do with us.

I think it's completely fair to mention to your boss that you were feeling [stressed/sad/defeated/whatever] by an interaction with a recent visitor. That it wasn't the interaction itself that was an issue, just that it was particularly draining, and does your manager have any advice from their own experience on bouncing back from setbacks like that.
posted by phunniemee at 3:07 PM on April 28, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: When I’ve worked at jobs like that what’s helped me is having someone to complain too afterwards. Usually a coworker, sometimes a friend, sometimes the internet. Knowing I was going to be able to tell someone about it later helped. In the moment I would try to take a few minutes to compose myself and if that wasn’t possible focus on the next person as strongly as I could, or remind myself about the many other people who weren’t rude when I was being completely reasonable.

And this used to happen to me a lot. When I was in my 20s I gave the receptionist at our office her lunch break. I can not recognize faces and I’m bad at spelling a word I’ve only heard spoken. Multiple times I tried to check in my coworkers as guests, some of whom I had seen hours before. I once repeatedly told someone the person she was asking for didn’t work at our office because I wasn’t spelling his name correctly when I looked him up in the directory. The person I was talking too was his wife, and she worked in the building too. Eventually we could laugh about it but I’m still cringing at this memory.
posted by lepus at 3:07 PM on April 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Entitled & rude customers are the worst. Your job is a highly stressful one where you constantly have to deal with assholes. So cut yourself a little slack for having bruised feelings: it's normal! Expected! Human!

You're right that this doesn't rise to the level of something you need to bring up with your manager - precisely because this is par for the course when you're dealing with customers. It would be like a teacher bringing up with the teacher-manager (is that a thing? lol) that students are always losing their pencils. Now, let's be clear, if you have 35 kids whining about losing pencils all day long, then you would have to be inhuman if you weren't driven up the wall. But on the other hand, this is also an expected shitty part of the job, so it's not something to bring up with a manager. You are bang on accurate in your assessment there.

You're also making a fantastic decision to bring this up with your therapist. That is exactly the right professional to help you through these painful feelings. So once again, you have made an excellent assessment of the situation and made the right choice.

All in all, I think you're being really hard on yourself. In your decisions and behavior and choices, you are acting like a mature, professional, and intelligent person. You've done nothing wrong. The only thing that's "wrong" is that you're dealing with painful feelings - and that's completely human. Be gentle with yourself. These feelings are not a crime. They are not proof of your failure or inferiority or lack of ability in any way. You are not a lesser person for having painful feelings.
posted by MiraK at 3:13 PM on April 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: If it's just remembering people's names you're struggling with, i'd just pretend you're simply required to ask their names every single time, full stop. "I'm sorry sir, but it's policy to ask everyone their name every single time in order to ensure we don't make any mistakes." No one has to know it's *your* policy. People can really suck. Kill 'em with politeness, and feel free to blame some undefined policy-making entity as needed. It often helps if there's a common enemy people can bond over being annoyed with.
posted by cgg at 3:20 PM on April 28, 2022 [46 favorites]

I’m really sorry this happened to you!
I’ve worked in customer service in various roles for many, many years. One thing I really try to remember is that **99% of the time, it’s not about you.** People are carrying around a lot of baggage, and for many people it’s easier to unload onto a stranger than to someone they know. Also, some people wake up in the morning deciding not to be happy. I know it’s really easy to say, but try to remind yourself that it’s not personal. It’s not fair, but unfortunately people who work in customer service are just easy targets.
posted by bookmammal at 3:26 PM on April 28, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Hey here’s my take: fuck these people. He IS wrong, your job is not to memorize people’s names and faces, your job is to check people in and you’re doing it correctly.

I answer the phones for a popular park and I frequently get callers who say something like “my name is X, I called last week?” and then no immediate follow-up. I always tell them what you did: I get many calls a week and I’m afraid I don’t recall, could you remind me what you’re calling about? I’ve never had anyone get mad about that. And if I did, I wouldn’t think “oh no I should have remembered.” I’d think “geez what a dick.”
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:33 PM on April 28, 2022 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Oh sweets. You poor thing. This grumpiness is on them. It’s not about you.

It’s so easy to feel defensive. Here’s a line you might try instead. You might even practice saying it a few times. “I’m doing the best that I can.” You don’t owe them an explanation or reason, but perhaps this will be a reminder to yourself that you are doing the best the can.

And you are doing just fine.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:36 PM on April 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: "Sir, I recognize you, but policy is for everyone to be checked in the same way."

I try to remember that everyone is carrying around some burden that I can't see. On the other hand, it's likely that he's just a jerk.

You're doing great -- keep it up!
posted by wenestvedt at 3:43 PM on April 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds to me like you handled it perfectly. This guy got his nose out of joint because he thinks he's a VIP everywhere he goes and how dare you not remember him! I like that you gave a little concession to his ego ("bad with faces") but didn't fall all over yourself.

I have a similar (or analogous) reaction when people act that way to me. Something in my background predisposes me to feel really wounded and think I must have done something to make the person treat me that way. Rationally, I know it's their issue but it can still make me sick to my stomach for a bit when it happens. But at this point I can usually say, "Oh, yes, I'm having that reaction again. Moving right along..." I try not to feel bad about reacting, sort of the Buddist "second arrow thing." It's one thing to feel bad; it's another-- and it's unnecessary-- to feel bad about feeling bad.

You're doing fine!
posted by BibiRose at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This person is an entitled asshole. You did nothing wrong. +1 of using the "I have to follow the check in protocol" or whatever line you want. People are just... terrible to customer service people a lot.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: None of that interaction was because of you. Not your medication, not PTSD, sensitivity and all the other you mentioned. You didn't recognize him, end of story.

I can't imagine there are many humans who would recognize all 250 people that you talk to in 4 hours.

You didn't make a mistake. You are human. You didn't recognize him, and no matter what he thinks that is ok.
posted by Ftsqg at 4:20 PM on April 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Hi there! You're doing great and some people are just ALWAYS going to be snide or self-important. I agree with everyone who's encouraging you to come up with a few pat phrases to note the comment, maintain your dignity and keep things moving. I highly encourage you to find something that feels breezy and doesn't get stuck on whatever jerkiness they're bringing to the situation.

What would make you feel good to say? For example, would you want to say something like "Whoops! The memory bank is full of names, but I promise to remember your face/smile/etc!" or "Awww, I'm bad with names, but have a wonderful day!" or "Yep, here you are on the VIP list! Right this way!"? Sure, it would be placating them, but I care more about you having things you can say to end the interactions in a way that feels good to YOU. If this feels false or icky to you, then you can come up with something in your own voice that quickly ends the interaction on a positive note. I've found that it often flips a switch in the customer (nice if it happens) and protects my soft sensitive center (crucial to my happiness).
posted by annaramma at 4:26 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hey here’s my take: fuck these people. He IS wrong, your job is not to memorize people’s names and faces, your job is to check people in and you’re doing it correctly.

As a highly sensitive person, "fuck these people" might be a bit hard to achieve without mechanical aids, so maybe you could make up a little collection of Asshole Bingo cards.

Any day where you can collect a whole line of pre-anticipated gratuitous disparagements then counts as a Win instead of five pointless, demotivating insults.

Plus, any new gratuitous disparagement is a win in its own right, because you can make a note of it for your next card. It's important to keep this kind of thing nicely refreshed.

From the customer's point of view, having you react to a gratuitous disparagement with the kind of delight that being able to add another X to a bingo card will yield is good as well, because it gives them a face-saving out into Ha Ha Just Kidding if they have the wit to take it.
posted by flabdablet at 4:37 PM on April 28, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: If it will make you feel better to empathize with him, I think people are just hungry to be seen and known, probably now more than ever. I have shopped at the same tiny grocery for almost 30 years and one of the checkers has worked there all that time. Everyone else gets to know me within a month or two but after checking me out literally hundreds of times Annie has no idea who I am and it makes me feel bad. Note that I have never said a word about it!!! She’s just doing her job and making friends is not a job duty. Nevertheless, I feel bad, and if I were also an asshole with no filter then those feelings I guess could result in a comment like this guy made. I’m not excusing it, but it always helps me to try to see things from the asshole’s point of view, as it were.
posted by HotToddy at 4:53 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you're at all musical, put your inner Andre Antunes on speed dial.
posted by flabdablet at 5:01 PM on April 28, 2022

During the pandemic, my wife worked as a Covid-scanner in a couple of different medical practices. Basically her job was to check people in, take their temperature, ask screening questions and make them wear masks, and they were frequently SO RUDE to her. Even when she liked her coworkers and generally the patients she had at least a few people every day who were absolutely horrible to her just because they could be, they didn’t take Covid seriously, etc. She saw many people each day and of course didn’t remember all of them. Some people have a truly incredible inflated sense of self-importance and statistically if you have a public-facing job you meet a certain number of them. It sucks but it’s very much not about you or your cognitive status, imo.
posted by Summers at 5:02 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: These people are clueless and entitled, "I check a zillion people a day" is absolutely acceptable and reasonable, you did fine. Next time say "sorry about that, Bob" no matter who complains.

Keep in mind that their aggressive complaints may have been intended to cement their face and name in your mind. You don't have to let yourself be manipulated.
posted by rhizome at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've been in customer service for many years. The best things you can do to combat this are to become confident in your best skills & abilities and have self compassion towards your own personal limitations.

I use "ASAP" as a mnemonic when teaching folks how to deescalate tense situations with customers.
Apologize (genuinely & only if you have truly erred or transgressed), Sympathize (express compassion, empathy, or sympathy), Accept responsibility (reassure them you'll make things right), Procced with appropriate action(s).

If your first inclination is to fault or disparage someone when they express that they're upset instead of holding compassion for them (e.g., "Why? Because you're the only white Republican over 65 in here?") my advice is to work on holding compassion. These people want to feel seen, heard, respected, and understood. Just like you.

I don't think that you erred or transgressed here simply by not remembering him. It's reasonable to not recall every face or name.

What's your usual approach to each interaction? Do you greet them, or make small talk, or simply ask for their name? You have an opportunity to set the tone by getting them with warmth & positivity.

Hopefully your manager checks in with you regularly & you have an opportunity to share what you're struggling with & get productive feedback when issues like this arise.
posted by Lil' Blue Goat at 5:07 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. These people aren't being mean to you because of anything you've done, or anything you deserve, or because of anything you perceive as a personal shortcoming.

The most important thing I ever learned in customer service training is that most difficult or aggrieved customers are that way because of anxiety or some other internal turmoil. They were already in that state before you ever interacted with them, and maybe if you're lucky and patient they'll be a little bit better after but you probably won't know. These people do not hate you, they've got some kind of shit going on that isn't your fault and doesn't have anything to do with you, except that you have to deal with it.

It's not groveling to be sorry they're having the kind of day that makes them act like that. You might try finding something vague but kind to say, like "I'm so sorry, I see more faces than I'm able to memorize, but I'm glad you're here. *clickety clickety* Okay, all set, I hope you have a good day." This is for your benefit as much as theirs - for one thing, the empathy response doesn't spike your cortisol as much as the fuck-you reaction, but also if they're having a good day the next time you interact with them, they're likely to be nicer. There is a chance that you will be the only person they encounter that day or week or month who is kind to them just as a matter of course.

You might think of yourself as something like a traffic cop. Nobody is really craving for you to stop them - and that's not about you personally but about the stopping - but also nobody wants the consequences of not having someone there doing the stopping. You are doing a job that is important in part because people don't really wanna follow the rules - it's basically impossible to get people to self check-in unless the doors literally won't open until they do - and some people are going to resent the process even though it's for their own good. Bless their difficult unwise little hearts, if you can, because I don't think it's worth the stress to your body or mind to internalize their bad attitude as a personal attack.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:26 PM on April 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: First, based on the numbers your wrote, you are checking in 1 person per minute for four straight hours. That is impressive no matter your attitude. I would frame it a little differently. Instead of getting upset about 1 or 2 interactions a day or an hour, recognize that you successfully processed over 99% of your interactions with no rudesters and signed in 100% of all interactions.

I like the suggestion about saying it is policy to take the same steps with everyone. You could even add a humorous line like, "I even had to ask my mother her name." You could also try some other humor with a smile. "Oh, I did not recognize you without your mask on." You could also try the truth. "Sir, I do remember you. Our previous interactions have been very pleasant. I have a condition whereby I do not recognize faces. I am sorry. You appear to be in a hurry. Let's just beat this bureaucracy together. How do you spell your name?"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:39 PM on April 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sometimes you can just smile politely and say nothing (although masks can make this a bit harder) and continue as if the comment was never made. Lately I've been working on practicing the idea that you don't need to attend every argument you're invited to. This is much easier said than done, but every time I successfully just don't respond and let something go, it's worked beautifully.

(Also, adding a slow deep breath helps ME let it go so I don't dwell, because rude people don't deserve your effort or energy even in your head.)
posted by carlypennylane at 7:00 PM on April 28, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I used to go to my local Dunkin Donuts often enough that eventually the nice lady working there told me what I wanted as soon as she saw me, before I even had a chance to place my order, and I was embarrassed because I lived in a big city and this was a busy DD and I never would’ve thought anyone working there would recognize me from day to day and know what I was going to order. So when she did that, I actually started going there less because I suddenly felt very self-conscious… which is weird, right?

I’m telling you this to make the point that people are so weird and inconsistent in how they might react to completely innocuous things that it’s so not worth getting bothered over this or taking it personally. I understand why you did, and I’ve worked in customer service too and it can be so hard to just brush these things off, but yeah. It sounds like you’re doing a fine job.
posted by wondermouse at 7:05 PM on April 28, 2022 [8 favorites]

Besides checking in, we must create a new persona if they had not been there. He immediately told me "he has come here before and you always spoke to me." and then he got that irritated look on his face. My first mistake is always getting defensive, so I merely said I see hundreds of people a week, and I'm bad with faces. (Truth.)

People who pull this sort of thing sometimes do it precisely because they want to see you get defensive and reactive. So in cases like these, I like to disarm them by doing the exact opposite of what they expect. In this case, I'd parry his demand by manifesting Dale Carnegie and warmly asking him for a favor: "See, I know you're here all the time and I really should know your name by heart by now. Will you help me remember it next time?"

And then watch what he does. Next week, he might approach you with a bright, expectant face. And then you can do what you like, because you're in control now, and you are always, always trying your best to remember and you just need a little bit of help again. Do you want to see him spell his name veeeeery slowly? Do you want him to write it on a card? He's your sad little marionette on a string now, hungry for a shred of your benevolent attention, if only you'll remember his name. Repeat the same thing every visit, promising that you'll need his help again next time, you’re so close. Amuse yourself with subtle variations.
posted by mochapickle at 7:22 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Lots of great advice here. One thing that helped me stop feeling badly about interactions like this is the idea of "Carrying your own weather." Essentially it's about not letting outside things, or in this case people, affect your mood and drag you down. I used to be highly reactive to little interactions like this and it would ruin my whole day. This concept helps me let it go and stay positive instead. You might find it helpful!
posted by platinum at 7:40 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Little Blue Goat--I was being funny wrt the Republican remark, but I guess that didn't come through. If you read, though, I am as polite as I can be, and he was another guy I chose to make the butt of my jokes (in my head. not to his face).

And, yeah, not always time to say anything except, "Hello. What is your last Name? First name? Thank you. Have a good one." as you know it's all about the tone.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 7:55 PM on April 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: don't need to attend every argument you're invited to

This should be written in gold letters twelve feet high on a red wall.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 7:57 PM on April 28, 2022 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the validation, fellow Meta-shrinks. I know YANAS. I do feel better and I have lots more to deal with here. It was just as soon as he told me I was like, "Oh $#1+. Of course, it's Slavitimoothskin Beehive Oven III, how could I forget." He even told me the story of his odd first name (his parents named him after a kitchen appliance*). So apparently he's pretty proud of that name. I get going too fast and I don't see it when it is there in my face.

*edited for internet

I'm all about the compassion/empathy, too. I just need to survive through each day sometimes.
Seriously, thank you all so much..
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 8:11 PM on April 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Entitled & rude customers are the worst. Your job is a highly stressful one where you constantly have to deal with assholes. So cut yourself a little slack for having bruised feelings: it's normal! Expected! Human!

Seconding this! You seem like you are doing fine, whatever human ups and downs you have are just normal ones. Older? Normal! PTSD? (Can be difficult but also) normal! You feel lucky to be up and walking around and that's a good attitude to go through life with because it will help. This person you interacted with? You handled that well. Hard to say what was up with him. Maybe he's a terrible person, maybe he got the worst news of his life that morning. Hard to know. But you did the right thing and then you did the next right thing by coming and griping (a little) here and not to him and not even to your boss (just a normal up and down, no need to make a thing about it). Talk to your therapist just to get some more strategies maybe for not beating yourself up over things like these, but I think you're okay. And, yeah, sometimes just kvetching to someone else who is on Team You "Can you BELIEVE this guy?" "I know right?" can sometimes feel nicely cathartic. Time will make it fade. I am glad you are okay.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hot Toddy: Do you think perhaps she has some brain damage/memory loss/etc? Anyway, good on you for not bringing it up.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 8:26 PM on April 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Well she's definitely kind of vague and dreamy. And she's in her 60s (although she wasn't always!). So who knows. Anyway I'm glad you're feeling better!
posted by HotToddy at 9:25 PM on April 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just to reinforce that this kind of entitled customer behavior has nothing to do with you, you might want to look at websites about experiences of other customer service workers. My favorite is

There are also several talesfrom... subreddits (e.g. that might help you feel less personally targeted. Bottom line is that customers can be great and kind, but also horrid and obnoxious.
posted by jasper411 at 9:43 PM on April 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Check out The Customer's Always Right by The Pist too.
posted by slidell at 1:27 AM on April 29, 2022

One thing I'm learning (and relearning) is that we don't have to process other people's misbehaviors through a lens of our own traumas, medical issues, personal history, etc. That level of introspection and analysis can just become exhausting.

For example, when my mother-in-law launches into unsolicited parenting advice, I don't have to explain all the deep dark reasons I in particular find it inappropriate, because it's eminently reasonable for *any person* to find it inappropriate. I just need to focus on solutions.

You don't have to make interactions at work about your medical issues, age, wiring, etc. because public-facing jobs are inherently stressful, you're a person, and it's eminently reasonable for you to have feelings when a person makes your job more stressful.

You just need to focus on solutions.

When I worked in a government job where I'd get my butt handed to me by angry people, I learned some strategies for heading them off. Largely, I'd display compassion even if I thought they were being unreasonable ("it sounds like you're really stressed out") try to find common ground ("it's frustrating when that happens") and then pivot ("so let's try X").
posted by champers at 3:10 AM on April 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

Love CGG and other's suggestions about saying some version of "it's policy." At my job, there have been cyber threats and subsequent obligations to add more layers of security to many formerly simple processes. This is one area where people can understand, or at least tolerate, additional hurdles. So maybe something that references identity theft, etc.? "It's policy as part of increased security protocols around identity theft," blah blah... Best of luck to you!!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:37 AM on April 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I worked at in food service. Occasionally, we'd get a customer who was rude and unreasonable. The boss would always say: "that person was probably having a bad day" and move on. It was a good way to close out the interaction mentally.

It sounds like you half agree that you "should" have remembered the guy's name, but give yourself a break here. Anyone in your shoes would make a mistake (and it doesn't even sound like a mistake).

One last thing-- what does him being older and white have to do with it? Old people don't get a pass on rudeness because they are old, but they certainly don't deserve contempt based on their race, gender, or age. And even if you know for a fact how the man votes, it doesn't really seem pertinent. In a public facing role, there is an obligation to treat everyone the same...which it seems like you are doing, so I'm not sure why this was part of the story.
posted by rhonzo at 5:28 AM on April 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just lie to people: Sorry, I have something Prosopagnosia, which means I have facial blindness. I don't even recognize my own friends and family.
posted by dobbs at 7:06 AM on April 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: rhonzo: It was meant as humor but apparently didn't come off as such.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 7:23 AM on April 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

You have a demanding job, shifting rapidly back and forth between filtering data into a machine, where accuracy is a primary component, and interacting with the live humans who give you that data.

I'm not excusing his rude behavior, but it would be helpful to remember that his remarks are not actually about you. From his point of view, you are the interface between him and a machine that doesn't give a shit that he may be having a bad day. He might have taken a deep breath and remembered that you aren't the machine, but he didn't. I can't tell from your narrative whether he's a miserable snowflake with an enhanced sense of entitlement or just some guy who forgets that his mouth is in gear when he takes his foot off the clutch of his internal dialogue.

I confess that were I in your place, I might have bunkered up into my best defensive posture and silently pounded his data into my keyboard. I might even give him the best frosty repost that I could manage. Or, if my wits were still intact, I might have smiled benignly and said something along the lines of, "Wow. Yeah, I bet I'll remember you next time."

Either way, you have my sympathy.
posted by mule98J at 11:08 AM on April 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think it was mentioned above that there are strategies to get better at recognizing faces/remembering names. You might want to explore some -- not because you owe this dude, but because it might help. Take a low-urgency approach to implementing one, if you have the bandwidth, with the understanding that it might not take. But if it even helped you remember one jerk a week -- even if you only remember the complainers -- that's one less opportunity a week for you to feel bad about it, rightly or wrongly.

Others also mentioned a lack of empathy. This guy seems not to understand what it's like to have a job like yours, and how hard it might be to remember a number of names and faces, even for many of us without a relevant medical condition or medication. Maybe -- and also maybe not, but maybe? -- you can turn that back on itself by practicing empathy yourself. Like, what's this guy's deal? Probably you don't know, so it could be helpful to imagine what it might be. Maybe he has a small and dwindling social circle, and/or doesn't get out much. He was a jerk about this interaction because he sees like three people a week, or five a month, or whatever. So of course he remembers you. Maybe imagining being that dude, only having five encounters with people a month, and not even getting remembered by the other party, helps explain why he was so rude -- and more importantly, maybe that knowledge helps *you* not take it hard, or as hard, or maybe it helps you get over it sooner.

Not that you have to play devil's advocate for everyone who's a jerk to you. But if it helps you deal with these interactions, it might be worth it.
posted by troywestfield at 5:57 AM on May 5, 2022

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