I noticed something I don’t like about myself.

I have an overly high expectation of people and their ability to do their job – whatever their job is. At least I guess it’s too high as I seem to be disappointed on a more regular basis these days. And as much as I’m afraid of being that customer or when I get older being the hateful old lady that nobody wants to wait on at the coffee shop I can’t help myself these days. I finally came to the realization of what the problem truly was – I’ll get to that in a bit.

On my vacation this year I became that customer a couple of times. I was that person who after three times of telling the Russian speaking deli clerk that I wanted to order a deli tray I yelled so loudly that the deli manager came out and started kissing my ass. Him kissing my ass was not my goal, but when you walk up to a supermarket deli counter and say “I need to order a deli tray,” you have an expectation that someone will help you. Or at least understand you. After I realized she was Russian I tried a few other versions – sandwich platter, sandwich tray – nothing worked because all she kept saying “you need cheese?” And yes my irritation clearly showed as I pulled out a deli brochure, smacked it on the counter and pointed at the picture of the sandwich platter and said “I NEED TO ORDER A SANDWICH TRAY!” Yes I know yelling at someone in English who only speaks Russian does not make them understand English any better – I tell that to people I train every day. And no this isn’t some sort of rant that if you live in the country or are going to school in this country you should only speak English – because that would be hypocritical of me since my grandmother lived here for years and never once spoke English. However, the deli manager should probably not have the Russian lady working the front counter when the only words she knows in English are “you need cheese?” Maybe have her be the lady standing with a tray offering samples where the phrase “you need cheese?” is more useful.

Deli counters and cheese were my nemesis on vacation. Before ordering the sandwich tray at that grocery store I got the brilliant idea that I would check on the price at Wal-Mart to see if they were less expensive. I stood in line with several other customers while one lady ordered 1 lb. of everything and wasn’t ever happy with the slice size. As irritated as I was getting at her obnoxiousness I told myself she had the right to be picky – after all she was purchasing deli meat as carefully as if she were selecting diamonds and rubies for the Queens new crown so she must have something important going on. Either way she had one deli clerk tied up. The other one was slumping around wrapping some meat here and there and finally asked who’s next. The lady next to me perked up and said she needed a pound of turkey and the worker said “Oh, I can only do cheese.” What the what?? The lady next to me politely said OK and I assume she waited for the other deli clerk who could slice meat. The clerk then looked at me and said, “You need cheese?” I said no and was about to ask about the deli trays but she just went to the next person and said “You need cheese?” With that I turned around and walked away. Too bad Wal-mart – you lost out on close to $60 worth of business because the only thing your clerk knew how to do was say “You need cheese?” And she wasn’t Russian, she spoke fluent English. And although I was irritated I didn’t make a scene here. I have a policy against making a scene at Wal-Mart for fear someone will video tape it and it will end up on Peopleofwalmart.com.

Later in the trip it was the cupcake counter worker. You’ll recall from my pervious blog that going to pick up 60 cupcakes that were readily set out and marked with my nieces name became an epic task for the girl at the cupcake counter. All she had to do was ring them up, swipe the credit card and say “Have a nice day!” But it took nearly 10 minutes of her flipping through papers and looking at the cash register like it was some alien space ship launcher before she finally got someone to help her. Maybe it was her first day, maybe no one trained her how to use the cash register, maybe she didn’t pay attention when they told her how to use the cash register – I DON’T CARE I JUST NEED THE CUPCAKES!! And yes I’m sure I wasn’t making it easy on her with my glare, high heel impatiently tapping and tone of voice when I asked if there was a problem. Again I was that customer.

That was just from a week on vacation. Imagine what I must be like to deal with when you’re my doctor’s office who I leave 3 messages for and never get a return call – yes you guessed it new doctor. Or if you’re the waiter who never comes back and asks if anyone wants refills despite the fact he forgot to put our food order in and we’ve been sitting there for 45 minutes. Or if you’re my lawyer – I called and talked to your idiot secretary on Tuesday after leaving a message on voice mail on Monday that was never returned and she said I’ll have him call you because I don’t know the answer to your question. No call on Tuesday, no call on Wednesday and finally Thursday my husband called back in and talked to the paralegal who said “oh yes it shows you called on Tuesday and someone was to return your call.” THEN RETURN THE DAMN PHONE CALL!!

I started to think something was wrong with me. I started to think it was wrong for me to expect decent customer service. I started to think that it was wrong for me to expect people to be able to do their job. And it’s not wrong for me to expect those things but I have higher expectations than other people. And the reason I have higher expectations than most people is because of what I do for a living. I realized this the other day when a lady I work with said, “If I did my job like that someone could die.” She was complaining about poor service she received I think from getting her cell phone fixed or something like that. But it was that phrase that made me realize my expectations might be a little too high. I’ve said that phrase before too, just not recently. But it’s the root of my irritation and anger. And it’s probably unfair for me to project my anger and irritation on others but I can’t help it.

See while it’s not really a huge ordeal if the lady at the deli counter only speaks Russian because she can probably help at least 70-80% of the people who go to the deli counter – if I could only help 70-80% of the people who call 911 that would be a BAD thing. Likewise, while the Wal-Mart clerk was only trained to slice cheese and could maybe do 50% of the work – if I was only trained to help people who were injured and bleeding but not who are having a heart attack and needed CPR instructions that would also be a BAD thing. And for blogging purposes I’m going to assume it was the girls first day at the cupcake store which would make sense for her not to understand the procedures and how to operate the cash register – so how safe would you feel if you called 911 and got someone who was just thrown on the phone on Day 1?

The expectations for my job are high. They’re not just high they are near super-human levels. I’m not trying to make myself sound super important but I’m being honest. I’m expected to be as close to perfect as perfect gets because if I make a mistake at the wrong time it can mean the difference between life and death. All emergency workers carry this burden. It means that on every call I have to get every number right – addresses, call back numbers – because if I don’t the ambulance goes to the wrong house and we can’t call the person back. It means that I have to get names right and descriptions right because if I’m not paying attention and I type blue mustang instead of blue charger the bad guy gets away. And if I don’t do these things I get disciplined. Yes there are consequences for my actions and yes my calls are reviewed and I have to get a 90% or higher on the grading scale. 90% – how many people can say they do their job every day at 90%? Now do you see why I have high expectations?

The problem is…… I don’t know how to lower my expectations. And should I lower my expectations? I mean I realize that I need to give up the notion that the guy working part-time at Taco Bell so he can focus on his You Tube career is not even going to attempt to get the taco order right. But doctors and lawyers I think should be held to a little higher standard. Especially when there are good doctors who do give 90 plus percent every day – they raise the bar for the ones who don’t. And I have some good doctors. I’m sure somewhere there’s a lawyer who actually works or tries to work but I’ve yet to find one.

Usually there’s an ending to my blog. Where I’ve come to a conclusion or a resolution to my problem. But not this one. I know I need to let go of the deli counter workers and cupcake cuties, but there are too many people out there with jobs that should be done at 80 percent or 90 percent. And too many jobs that do(or at least should) require good customer service for me to give up on my expectations. I’m still going to be that customer.