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Awful People of the Older Persuasion

  So, I don’t know (or care, really) about anyone else, but one of the most infuriating excuses for obnoxious behavior in the world is the old chestnut, “They’re too old to change now.” If you haven’t been subjected to such silliness, then consider yourself lucky because the person who drops it on you has lost all hope, and they think you should, too.

  Now, the older generation is as diverse as any group of people. I have encountered far more wonderful elders than awful ones in my travels. But, like any group of people, we tend to notice the cranky jerks more than the pleasant members. It’s an evolutionary necessity, really: we know who they are so we can avoid them in the future. In a business environment, however, that all goes down the tubes. We’re locked in a place where assholes can continue to be assholes and the only way to deal with them (and still get paid, mind you) is to grin and bear it.

  Usually, in a community of people, everyone acknowledges the young jerkasses for exactly what they are. They’re yuppies, hippies, jocks, nerds, Christians, atheists, rich, poor, whatever - a prick is a prick, regardless of larger affiliation. These squid-brained miscreants can be rude, curt, talk on a cell phone rather than to you, pay for a two dollar tab with a hundred, or any number of actions deemed by sane members of society to be ‘quite dickish.’ In the end, we tend to acknowledge them for what they are: irredeemable wastes of DNA.

  These human beings are not to be mistaken with people who occasionally misstep but are usually quite decent. An urgent cell-phone call may take priority over ordering - annoying, but hardly worthy of a power slap. A sick child may make their interaction with others far more pointed. An argument with the spouse over who drank the last of the vodka can keep someone’s mind out of the game and render them aloof. But these people tend to realize they’re being a bit off-putting and respond accordingly by being extra polite next time or - heaven forbid! - apologizing for the transgression.

  No, the chronic malefactor is a special case, because they either don’t know they’re insufferable or simply have no fucks to give. They’re outrageously terrible and they aren’t afraid to show it because you’re not nearly as (pejorative adjective) as they are, and they actively hate you for it. And, at some point, I don’t know when, but at some point they reach an age where everyone expects them to be an ass, and people tolerate it.

  Which is absolutely absurd.

  I’m certainly a jerk in what I hope is a playful way - as in I tease my family and friends in order to get a laugh from them, but I will always try to respect it if they can’t handle my particular brand of chicanery. But, more to the point, when it comes to strangers, I will usually try to be courteous and respectful. First, because my parents are awesome and raised me pretty well. But second, and perhaps a little more to the point, I don’t want people being unnecessarily obnoxious toward me.

  When I am an unrepentant wastrel to someone I don’t know, I’m usually called out on it, and rightfully so. I then feel bad for my behavior, and usually try to make amends. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Move along, everything’s fine and dandy. But there are just some people who don’t seem to get that - they’re assholes, and they’re seemingly proud of it. And while society is supposed to collectively smite (or at least complain about) these tendencies when people are young, it proceeds to drop the ball when these idiots eventually mutate into obnoxious self-assured mini-Strom Thurmonds: loud hypocritical semi-sentient cancer polyps who have an opinion outdated in 1889 but will be damned if you aren’t going to sit around to hear it.

  We, for some reason, let this happen. At a certain point, we stop holding these insufferable pseudo-people accountable for the discomfort they cause us. We smile as they tell us what’s wrong with us as workers, as human beings, because we have the audacity to exist. They complain just to complain and respond to the ever encroaching grasp of a cold, faceless death by lashing out at people who are more powerless than they are - service workers.

  I worked at a fine, upstanding place for many, many years, so I have a lot of experience working with pleasant and unpleasant people. And it always infuriated me when customers were allowed to be unnecessarily cruel to employees - namely because such behavior can’t be met in kind. It would be utterly refreshing to actually watch a customer be told to leave for even slight breaches in pleasant conduct. And I’m not talking about ‘customer wants something redone,’ I’m talking about ‘customer questions how hard it is to do your job.’ I would love to see someone get the boot because their own jackassery came back to bite them square in their pimply ass. Part of this whole too-much-of-a-jerk-to-properly-function mentality comes from that poisonous principle ‘the customer is always right,’ which a small handful of companies have recently abandoned because, quite frankly, it’s a shit policy.

  Since the average company is apparently all too content to let employee abuse happen so long as it doesn’t have to take responsibility for the behavior, instances of employer-induced customer-comeuppance rarely happen. The customer gets what they want (usually) and the person in question licks their wound and rages with their fellow workers. Possibly even their manager. If you harbor any delusions that such conversations take place (I’m looking at you, over-optimistic bureaucrats), then I’m afraid you just don’t quite get this whole ‘reality’ thing. (And, gentle reader, if you’re worrying that you may have been the subject of one such anger-induced rant, I would suggest you relax - you’re displaying empathy, something the subjects of this posting decidedly lack)

  It’s a broken-but-tolerable system with its peaks and valleys of crappy-behavior activity, but once age enters into the picture, all sense of comradery seems to die away. Former allies-in-arms throw up their hands and say “Well, it’s too late for them to change now.” I don’t know if its elder worship taken to a bizarre extreme or what, but that implies that, at some point, these contemptible slobs could have changed for the better. And, if the steady march of civilization toward eating each other alive is any indication, that’s certainly not the case. We should still be ranting about how they just can’t seem to find joy in anything other than torturing others instead of allowing them to spend the rest of their limited time spreading misery.

  I guess what really irks me about that casual disregard for other people’s feelings is that, when you shrug your shoulders and give a defeated “Too late,” you’re basically saying its society’s duty to force unpleasant punks to evolve into something better. On top of everything else, you’re putting the blame on everyone’s shoulders except the person who can fucking change. To make it even worse, this insult applies retroactively to everyone who ever had contact with this wretched expenditure of carbon. And I, for one, refuse to accept responsibility for anyone’s asshole behavior except my own.

  Maybe it’s because I, like many other people in the service industry, had been abused and powerless to stop it. In any case, I don’t see how ‘service-with-a-smile’ translates into ‘kick-me-in-the-junk’ to these fetid piles of excrement. And when you say “Well, too late to change!” you’re giving those people an excuse to continue being shitheads and saying that it’s some poor 19 year old barista’s fault that the motherfucking Grinch didn’t get his bigger heart. If you do that, you’re making the wrong person angry and frustrated when, quite frankly, everyone should be glaring at the smug shambler from Dimension Old.

  You know, pleasant people of all shades outnumber the truly useless cads. Not saying that it’s a good idea, but what if we go ahead and drop the motto of ‘treat others how you wish to be treated’ and replace it with a slightly more effective ‘treat others as they treat you’. Start every conversation with middle-of-the-road respect and work your way from there. If they smile and enjoy themselves, hurray! This person is worth your time! If they insult you and question your ability to function at work properly, respond by telling them his kids look suspiciously like the milk man.

  Yes, it’s more reactive and will probably lead to a fair share of fights, but once the useless nipple-brained dead-pan paste-snorters suffer their first eight thousand black eyes, I’m sure they’ll get the message.*

* I am in no way telling you to punch people you don’t like. And if you’re honestly taking life advice from me, you may want to find a better role model.

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