A few years ago, I had a rather quirky coworker. She was in her twenties, liked doodling her co workers as foxes for some reason in her sketchbook, and seemed to take umbrage that she couldn’t pin fake cat ears to her uniform hat. Whatever.
We have a program where veteran operators ‘mentor’ new operators and I was assigned to her. What surprised me was her repeated admission that she couldn’t ‘fake it’. I asked what she meant.
“You know, this whole stupid Fake Nice bullshit we’re supposed to have at work. Why do they care? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the passengers knew you were in a bad mood/pissed off at them? Most bus drivers seem cranky anyway”
This wasn’t the first time I heard this rant, but it was the first time I heard it outside of the internet. I tried to explain to her that we have a job where we don’t have a manager hovering our shoulder the whole time, you’re getting paid to sit in traffic, you get paid more than 99% of bus drivers in the United States. Will people get on your nerves? Sure! But a big part of your job is to try not to lose your cool. When people call in on us to Customer Service, they forward the complaint to our managers. Our managers then pull us into the office and calmly ask to hear our side of the story. If you were acting calmly, and the passenger was being unreasonable/crazy/wrong, the manager WILL take your side of the story. Attitude and ‘tone’ have a huge part in who ends up in the ‘right’ in these situations. People get called in by busybody passengers over the smallest of slights and its the ones that have an upbeat attitude that don’t get into trouble.
She didn’t get it. I tried not to be condescending by implying her age had something to do with it. She had told me she had worked other customer service jobs before and it was a reoccurring pet peeve she had. So she obviously knew she people have to put on a ‘game face’ at work. I tried to be as supportive and consctructive as possible, but she was always telling me, “nope, nope nope, its bullshit, I shouldn’t have to censor myself, you’re my mentor, tell the supervisors to lay off because I can’t handle being fake nice”.
Not shockingly she didn’t last through her probation period. She got called into the office multiple times for flipping out on passengers. I won’t lie and say every second of my job has been bliss. But I’ve learned ways to find a middle ground between being ‘right’, being ‘happy’, being ‘employed’, and being ‘sane’. The more annoying passengers get, the more patient I try to be. I am constantly aware that everything I do and say on the bus is being recorded, and when someone tries to antagonize me I think to myself, “Is the supervisor going to be sympathetic to my potential reaction? Will it be kind of embarassing to sit there with the supervisor while I see the CCTV recording of myself losing my shit on a passenger and telling them I’ll fucking kill them if they don’t get off the bus?”. The more they yell and scream, the quieter and calmer I make my voice. They want to speak to my supervisor, they want a refund, they want to call the cops? Sure, I get paid by the hour
I know the ‘customer service’ aspects of jobs suck, but I guess I have a hard time getting into the ego of someone who can’t see the benefit to finding coping mechanisms if it means getting a job that pays as much as mine does. Like any job, if you define my job by the ‘worst’ aspect of course people would say, “Why the hell would anyone want to be a [job]?” Not surprisingly, there is a big difference between the surly disgruntled people and the drivers who retire after a satisfying 40 year accident-free career. And that difference is their attitude.