Saturday, August 05, 2006
The Incompetence Magnet
Or maybe it's a beacon. I haven't decided yet, whether incompetent employees are unwillingly drawn to me like I'm broadcasting some sort of reverse-invisible-fencing or whether a sign that I can't see is suspended above my head so that they can seek me out. Or maybe everyone is subpar and I'm just now becoming aware of it. Somehow that last option scares me the most.

Anyway. Two stellar examples of customer service today.

First was at the Home Depot ("You can do it. We just don't think you can do it on your own."), where I took the kids for their monthly free craft thingy. Which, right there, three of my favorite words. Free. Craft. Thingy. Hooray!

So, I showed up with the kids, not with Willem. Which apparently was the equivalent to painting a big "HELPLESS LITTLE LADY" sign on my forehead. Because this almost-elderly male employee came trotting right over to where we were set up, and insisted, despite my immediate and unambiguous "No" to his "Do you need help?" The project for this month was a pencil box, so it required 4 cute little nails and some precise alignment. Clearly, this was a task well beyond any single mom, even if she's not actually single. This gentleman's version of helping involved, at one point, taking the hammer out of my hand to start the project, and at another, insisting on holding the box still while I tried to hammer... that is, exactly the type of assistance that I provide for my kids, only they're, you know, KIDS. I finally got frustrated with him, took the hammer and the box back, and pointed at Emily's little Home Depot apron, which has a pin on it for each project she's done at their free craft thingies. "See her apron?" I asked. "She has 19 pins on it. That means I've done 19 other crafts with pretty good results. I really, really don't need help right now." He got all huffy at me, offended that I wouldn't be helpless or pathetic.

Because, as we all know, "capable" actually is Sanskrit for "bitch," right?

But wait, there's more!

Because I had promised the kids that I would take them to one of the local pools, which is actually two pools - a regular 3-7 foot one and another one which goes from zero inches deep to about 3 feet. We tried to go there right from Home Depot, but couldn't because it wasn't open yet. No hours posted anywhere that I could see them, just not open. Fantastic.

So, we went home for lunch, my offspring napped, and then we headed back over. And this time the pool was open... but it wasn't. That is, the big pool was open, but the kiddy pool had a single cone at the entrance side, with a sign that said "Closed for Maintenance." I asked the lifeguard - who was surprisingly frumpy and appeared even more so because her bathing suit was too big - whether the smaller pool would open at all, and she said, "Oh, not today. It doesn't need maintenance, we just don't have enough lifeguards."


There went my plan of letting Jacob paddle around while I sat on the side and read some light and un-intellectually-improving novel. But, fine, we all have to make sacrifices, so I got in the big pool with Jacob and we enjoyed it. For all of 15 minutes. At which time the same Frumpy Lifeguard blew her cute little whistle and announced, "Lifeguard switch, everyone out of the pool." Huh? You can't trade places while we swim? Okay. Fine. I cannot imagine that the town allows the 16-year-old Frumpy Lifeguard to make the rules, so I'm not going to get on her case for following them. Yet.

We all got out, and instead of the lifeguards trading places, they all headed toward the office. I caught up with Frumpy and asked her, "How long will this take?" She told me it would be a half an hour.

A half hour?!? To switch lifeguards?!?!?

Really. Wonderful.

I asked her, "Was this scheduled?" She gave me a really, really good impression of a Kewpie doll's blank stare. I elaborated. "The lifeguard switch. Does it always happen at the same time? And always take a half an hour?"

The light dawned. "Ohhhhhhh," she said, "No, I didn't say lifeguard SWITCH, I said we had to take a BREAK." [Let the record show that I did NOT, at this moment, throw a tantrum because she did SO say "switch."] "But, yeah, it's always at 3:00."

It was at this point that I sensed that I was about to start bleeding out the ears. "Do you think, maybe, then, it might make more sense for you to POST THAT INFORMATION somewhere? So that I don't get into the pool with my kids only to have to get out 15 minutes later? Maybe?"

And her response? Her bratty, arrogant, incompetent, only-from-a-16-year-old response?? "Well, it's been that way for YEARS, how come you didn't know it already?" Oh, you little snot. I didn't know it already because, unlike you, I have actually lived other places in the world, and I hold a certain expectation of professionalism for employees of establishments I frequent. Not necessarily HIGH expectations, but expectations nonetheless.

I did manage to leave without flicking her, locker-room-style, with my towel. Or throwing a child at her.