Offensive, thoughtless, or innocent comment?

OK, brief history. I had back surgery when I was 20 (I’m 29 now). It went OK, but I now have a lot of bad problems with my back. I have chronic pain and am always in and out of doctors offices and physical therapy trying to get better. It got so bad I can’t work full time- this is not a good thing for me. Each time I lose a piece of my life (working full time, being able to perform tasks, etc) I end up depressed. I’ve got issues with the whole mess. (Yes, I’m seeking counseling).

I am meeting with a new vendor this week. (I am a Systems Administrator) He e-mailed me yesterday asking to come by tomorrow. I mailed back today to confirm, but he said that since no one got back to him yesterday, they already changed his schedule. Could we do it on Friday instead? Here is a copy of the exchange we had:

Now, I know in my heart of hearts that he has NO IDEA why I work this schedule and how it affects me. I KNOW THAT. But still, it aggrivates me no end! To me it implies that I’m less of a worker (or a person) because I work light hours, or that I sit around the rest of the time drinking beer and slacking. I know that isn’t true, but no matter how much I tell myself NOT to get aggrivated at this type of thing, every time it comes up I do.

So my opinion question is this: I’ve heard this sort of comment SO MUCH since I started working light, I want to understand the motivation. Would you make a comment like this to someone, and if so- why? Is working so bad to you that you would wish for an illness to get out of it? (I had someone tell me he would gladly trade places with me, knowing full well my situation).

Do people say things like this out of the need to be offensive, because they’re thoughtless, or is it an innocent comment and I need a check-up from the neck-up?


I put the line in my e-mail about having “health issues” because usually if I don’t, the first thing they want to talk about is my schedule and why I work it. If I even hint that it’s a back thing, I have to hear about their back, their mom’s back, their grandma’s back, etc. I really don’t care about it.
“Health issues” usually stops questions, I’ve found.


I wouldn’t make a comment like that personally.
I, too, resent folks who make “must be nice” comments (like folks who comment about my ability to play on the computer for a while at work. I also haven’t taken any more than 5 days off in a row for the past 6 years, and only take the 5 days off between Christmas and New Years.)

But, I don’t think the guy meant harm, was just an idiot (he did, afterall put in a smiley…)
so, he’s an idiot. I’m not. You’re not. be miffed, if you wish. but don’t see where holding it against him is going to do anything for you. I’m sure when he actually meets you and realizes the situation you’re in, he’ll feel enough like a heel.

Know what, I had to read it twice to even catch the “health problems” part. I’m betting that it was just a slight sarcastic remark and wouldn’t make anything of it. that’s just my 2 cents though.

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidty.

Hi, Zette! I don’t see anything here to be offended about. IMHO, this is just a very lame attempt to get a laugh out of you. He has NO IDEA that you are sensitive about it.

spooje, thanks a lot. I really needed that comment:

Truer words have never been spoken.
Even with the few responses so far, I can see that it’s me, not everyone else that has the issue. I appreciate everyones input, especially spooje.


I think he’s trying to make a joke. So reply in kind…

“How do I sign up?”

“Well, first, get three of your spinal vertabrae fused. We can fit you in on Wednesday…”
This should serve the twin goals of letting him know that you’re not slacking and that he was out of line.

Funny you should say that- it’s almost exactly what I wrote, then didn’t send. Is he out of line? I certainly think so! That’s exactly why I posted this thread. I’m thinking “Is this guy a clueless nice person, a clueless jerk, an asshole, an innocent person, WHAT?” I don’t want to sound like a martyr, but I resent someone insinuating that I’ve “got it made”.

I was about to send that e-mail (the one you suggested) when I thought “Well, maybe it was just an innocent comment. No need to make him feel like a heel (even if he is). If he comments further, I’ll let him know where the bear shit in the woods.” I tend to overreact to this particular comment, so I try not to say anything now.

This thread is good for my perspective, which I’ve definately lost on this issue. Thanks all!

I definitely think he was just kidding. I’ve done the same thing myself before to people that for various reasons only work part-time. After I manage to get my foot out of my mouth when they tell me their reasons, we usually have a nice conversation.
I’m sorry you are having so many problems, keep your chin up.

I know you already said “thanks,” but if I may interject one thing…

This guy was almost undoubtedly making what he thought was a relatively innocuous, slightly humorous reply. He doesn’t know that you have heard that line (or one much like it) so many times it makes you wish for a personal death-ray. Every person who makes what he/she thinks is a clever comment is pretty much (usually wrongly) assuming you haven’t heard it before.

Zette, I can understand how you’ve gotten sensitized to this issue, but I agree that the guy had no ill intent, and it would be rude to slap him down. On the other hand, Finagle’s suggested reply is at least as funny as the original comment, and I can’t imagine the guy being offended by it. Offensive would be, “I am so sick of hearing that remark! It’s bad enough having a bad back without also having people on my case about my working hours all the time!” But an equivalent light joking tone is no problem, and that’s what the suggested reply is. (Be careful, though - given that this is a hot button for you, your “almost the same” response may not really be almost the same, because it may not have a lighthearted tone to it).

One thing that has been overlooked is that Zette might have some interest in alerting this guy to his unthinkingly cloddish behavior. Maybe make him more circumspect in his comments later on.

An experience that astounded me was when I was speaking over the phone with a relatively high up manager about a personnel issue. He asked me if it would be harrassment for a manager to ask to smell an employee’s hair. I figger this is somewhat related to the matter we are discussing, so I attempt to tell him that while it may not be actionable, I would recommend that he not go around sniffing co-workers’ hair. So he follows up with, “What if the manager’s a midget?”

It fucking floored me. This guy is saying this in his first conversation with an attorney he’s never met? On one hand, I figured the dipshit probably shouldn’t be in his position, and I should just stay quiet and let him hang himself in the future. But I was feeling magnanimous, and I suggested to him that he keep such jokes to himself and out of the workplace.

So yeah, the guy didn’t intend to offend you, Zette. But he did. And he might be sorry he did, and might wish to avoid doing so to other folk in the future. And you suggest that he is not an isolated experience of yours. Do we merely tolerate ignorance, or do we attempt to change it, one case at a time? Of course the flipside is he might think you are an unreasonable whiner for making anything out of it. I think the simple humorous approach suggested is best.

I don’t know, if I was on the receiving end of a comment like that, I would assume “That person is trying to make me feel better by implying that I have a good schedule and that he envys me.” You could view it as a compliment on your working skills, in that you are talented enough, valuable enough to the company, or independent enough that your company hires you to only work part-time. Once I had a schedule that people envied, and when someone said “Nice! Where can I get a schedule like that?” I would either reply, depending on my mood and the tone of voice of my interlocutor “You need to have superlative bargaining skills like I do” or else “In your face, loser!” If you want to remain professional, then tell them “My employer and I have found the schedule that best fits our joint requirements. I would suggest that you discuss the issue with your own employer if you wish to have the same working hours.”

I personally wouldn’t mention the health problems at all on the grounds that it’s nobody’s business.

I totally agree, but based on my experiences over the last few years, it’s almost mandatory to mention the health issue right off. People are incredibly nosey and I get so torqued off about the whole issue that I hope to head it off before getting into a confrontation about it. I usually do answer people with a laugh or a shrug, but it’s really hard to do that when you feel like there is broken glass in your spine and some fucking shmooe is grinning at you saying “must be nice”. It’s not nice, and it’s not nice to make comments like that. (In my opinion)

I think I’ll just buy a stun gun and do some…ahem…“retraining”.



I get these ‘must be nice’ comments from time to time; I just smile and say ‘sure is’, and let it pass at that. Bugs me that some people always try to get a dig in if they feel someone else ‘has it better’. Yeah, he really wants chronic back problems to work fewer hours. Ha, I bet you’d trade places with him in a heartbeat.

I hope you get that back healthy if at all possible - make it nicer to ride that bike for you.


Looks like I need to get over it!

Thanks for the objective opinions all. Clearly people who snoop or make comments like this are ignorant, but really they can only piss me off if I let them. Which I now vow (again) that they won’t.

Oh, and Trades- I have actually HAD people tell me they would gladly trade places, knowing full well the problems I have. Can you believe how disgusting and vile that notion is? Made me want to rip off their arms and beat them to death with them. Hmmm…perhaps some anger management is in my future! Thanks for the well wishes, too. I haven’t ridden in quite some time because of this mess :frowning: