Saturday, June 16, 2012

Patience, Please

David Hockney iPhone Drawing
So the headline could have been "Stupid Old Lady Holds up Line at Kohl's."  At least, that seemed to be how the clerk saw it.  The special clerk, that is, who was called over to straighten out my attempt to use a return receipt for credit.  Eventually she showed me the kind of wallet card I should have been given, and I thought, Wonder if I've been stupid and checked my wallet, and voila - there it was.  I was relieved.  At that point, a nice person would have smiled and been happy for me.  Not this young woman.

It's not like there were a hundred people in line behind me and it was Christmas Eve.  I was just confused.  I'd forgotten about that card, and thought I could use the return receipt.  This stuff happens when you are almost 69 3/4 years old.  You stop retaining memories of everything.  Then you process problems more slowly.  As I have pointed out before, if you live long enough, you get old, like it or not.

I'd been thinking about blogging on bad systems, why they're bad, what we can do about them.  So I thought, I could write to management about this experience.  I'd write directly to the president, snail mail, that's what I do if I want to be heard, and I've had it work amazingly.  But I honestly wouldn't want a young woman to lose her job, or get a reprimand on her file.  She's not working at Kohl's for fun.  Do they give the staff benefits, or are they like Walmart, which refuses to give staff full-time work so they won't have to give them health insurance?

This was not the first time I've had perfunctory (at best) reception at Kohl's, where they'll accept anything as a return, but not with a smile.  I compared them mentally to Zappo's, the fabulous internet store specializing in shoes that fit me and free delivery both ways.  They have become famous for their success and its relationship to an emphasis on perfect service for every single customer, no matter how annoying we may be. The founder wrote a book about it.

What to do? 

Fortunately, I am not as pathetic as I might have looked during this ten-minute transaction.  I am not depressed by it, I do not feel worthless, because I accept my aging self.  I have had a certain grounding in reality through Buddhist practice, and through life, which can be a ruthless teacher.

Many elderly people are more vulnerable than I am to being treated with veiled contempt.  And it served to remind me how really important it is to be patient.  I could feel this woman's impatience, and it made me worry that maybe someone behind me in line was also disgusted with me; but there was another cashier, nobody had to stand there and wait.

It was all quite unpleasant.  Now that I think about it, maybe I won't shop at Kohl's anymore. You can buy all that stuff online.  Marketing folks, pay attention.  We don't have to put up with bad service anymore.  One more way the internet has given more power to the people.


  1. You know, I'm a firm believer in "you reap what you sow". I can't help but think that this young woman will someday understand...she will age, she will start to "decompose" in many ways (ahem) and people will be impatient with her...and she will realize. With menopause came forgetfulness...AND boldness. I've had embarrassing things happen because of my memory being on "tilt"-almost always I use humor to get through the moment. And at those times when I'm confronted by an individual that can't understand....well...I've been known to remind them that someday...they too will be in my shoes. I want to give you a great big hug!

  2. That's a really nice way to think. It makes me recall Pema Chodron talking once about a friend of hers who was chronically late, but got very upset when someone else was late. Pema said, "I didn't say anything; I know my friend works on herself." And life works on us as we age, even if we don't.