Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"I'm Picking Up on Your Sarcasm..."

As a veteran of the service industry, I know how much these jobs suck. Trust me. I've worked at four bookstores and one movie theater. The pay is awful, the hours are as inconsistent as the weather (oh, the joy of working a closing shift and then opening the next day), and you never know what situation you'll encounter.

Examples: As a cashier at a multiplex, I had the honor of giving my 10th grade crush a ticket while dressed in my nerd uniform of sweater vest and clip-on tie. When I worked at Borders--a job I loved, by the way--a customer once threatened to "take it outside" after I allegedly bumped into him. The latter scenario didn't become a scene from Road House.

However, the key to surviving a job like this is to have a good attitude. I know it sounds cliche, but it's the truth. When customers are given the impression that the person helping them is competent and can speak in complete sentences, interactions go smoothly 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent leads to some terrific stories.

This brings me to last Sunday. I went to a 10 a.m. screening of The Happening. It wasn't because I needed to see the movie right away, but because the AMC in my area offers $6.00 tickets for late morning shows.

The theater had two guys working the ticket desks, both very professional and polished, a shock considering the early hour. However, the ticket taker was another story entirely. I went up to him, gave my ticket. He asked how I was, and I asked him. The reply: "Just fantastic," in a voice so rich in sarcasm, you could hear the drops falling on the floor.

I was stunned into silence. Look, I'm not asking for a handshake and a cold drink, but c'mon, man. Don't talk to me like an asshole. First, I'm making an effort to be nice, so I shouldn't be shot down for it. Second, how do you know that I won't beat the absolute snot out of you, or the next guy you decide to take that attitude with? (God forbid he tried that with my Dad. Remember Alec Baldwin verbally intimidating the real estate agents in Glengarry Glen Ross? Multiply that by five.)

Honestly, the next time this happens, I'll probably say something like, "Well, that's great, young man. If you don't mind, I'm going to see this movie, get paid for it, and pursue my dream. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy standing for hours on end in your little costume while girls laugh at you and your resentment for your life and the people in it builds. Good luck on Monday's calc test, by the way."

Eh, maybe not. It would take too long and I'd probably miss the previews.

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