I got fired from a job once. In between my first and second year of graduate school, I decided it would be a great idea to work at a waterpark. After having worked in corporate pharmacies throughout undergrad and part of grad school, I decided I wanted to work in a less stressful environment for the last summer before I got a real job. Less stressful: boy, was I wrong.
Customer service is one of the more humanizing jobs one can have. Humanizing in that it shows you how absolutely awful some humans can be. At this waterpark, I was a manager for the cashiers, which is a pretty straightforward job. The vast majority of our customers were great and were there for fun. That was before the bee infestation happened.
A combination of the heat, water, and trash caused a massive amount of bees to set up residence at our waterpark, causing some serious issues with customers. I began getting pretty used to having customers complain about this, and did what I could to appease them. That was until my fateful last day.
It was our policy to not give refunds. This was posted behind the cash registers and hammered into our heads during orientation. A customer and her young child came into the waterpark and attempted to enjoy their time, until they discovered the bees. The woman came up to the register demanding a refund because of the bees. I explained our “no refund” policy, which obviously did not make this woman happy. The woman began berating me about how her child was allergic to bees and how I was trying to kill her child. Yes, you read that correctly: she accused me of trying to kill her child. It was as if I had woken up that day, put on my tacky waterpark polo and khaki shorts, looked into the mirror, smiled, and said to myself, “I am going to kill someone’s child with bees today.”
I typically can handle most scoldings from customers, so much so that in the corporate pharmacy world I had customers accuse me of changing their insurance, telling me that I didn’t mean anything to the world because I didn’t make as much money as them, and some even would throw their pill bottles back at us if we were unable to read their minds and give them the pills they wanted. All of that I could handle; however, having someone accuse me of trying to kill their child was not something I could deal with.
The woman asked my name because she was going to get me fired for the bees and I told her, “my name is Laura, I’m a seasonal employee, and I don’t give a shit.” Telling a customer that I didn’t give a shit was my demise but it was the damn truth. Should I have said that? Absolutely not. Did I give a shit? Absolutely not.
I often get asked why I work in prison. There are numerous reasons why, many of which are noble. The fact I can swear when I talk, however, is not one of my more noble reasons for working in prison. My personal counseling philosophy is “keeping it real,” which prison happens to be the only environment this type of counseling is suited for. I never swear at inmates but I don’t hesitate to swear when speaking to them. Prison allows me to be myself, and I sometimes swear like a sailor. I maintain a professional presentation in all situations that call for it but sometimes the best thing you can say to an inmate is, “yeah, that is some bullshit.”
I remember arguing with a fellow classmate in grad school about whether or not it was appropriate to swear when talking to inmates. My classmate believed that it was inappropriate and would make inmates disrespect me, particularly because I was a female. I believe that it allows me to be me, instead of putting on a front. Inmates respect when people are real and I’ve never had an inmate complain that I sometimes swear.
The moral of the story here is to keep it real. Be true to yourself. Too often we put on a facade of who we want to be, rather than who we are.
If I could go back, would I not say what I did to that waterpark customer? Hell no.