Monday, June 01, 2015

Do Not Go Gentle...

A case can be made for the nobility of suffering physical and personal problems in silence. My mother died after a far-too-long battle with lung cancer, yet never complained. More recently, a good friend dealt stoically with the bone cancer which killed him and never, ever spoke of it or his reactions to it, despite the fact that he knew I was more than willing to listen and do what little I can to provide support. My admiration for those who suffer in silence borders on awe. 

I have never suffered in silence on any level...even at those times—almost all of them—when I admittedly probably should have. If I have a hangnail, everyone within a six-mile radius knows about it. (I just got a paper cut on my tongue while sealing an envelope to the manager of a business at which the receptionist had been gratuitously rude...thus enabling me to suffer, loudly, twice.) I know my desire to share my physical discomforts is undoubtedly a rather childishly crude bid for an "aww, poor baby!" response. But this is not true of my insistence on being treated with courtesy and reasonable attentiveness by those whose job it is to provide me with a service.

There is no nobility in suffering gratuitous rudeness, professional incompetence, poor service, poor treatment, or willful ignorance in silence, and I refuse to do so without making my displeasure known.

People tend to be sheep. Rather than risk any form of confrontation by "making waves," they accept the unacceptable without a single word of protest...which of course only encourages more of the same. And as a result, they suffer not only the initial transgression but the frustration and bottled-up anger of knowing they should have/could have objected but did nothing. I do not consider stating a legitimate complaint clearly and without undo emotion to necessarily be a "confrontation."

I have friends who will tolerate the most egregious rudeness and insensitivity without a murmur. Surly, inattentive clerks, poor service, cold food in a restaurant, bureaucratic dictates? No matter how frustrating or anger-inducing, they accept it all with not a peep of protest, and it drives me crazy.

When I am paying for a service, I have every right to expect that service, and if I don't get it you can be sure I'll not remain silent.

Back when I was still able to eat, if I received cold food in a restaurant, I didn't hesitate a second in sending it back...politely, of course. My friends just shrug and eat what they're served. If a clerk or a waiter is rude, I ask to speak to the manager. Immediately. I then calmly explain my position and, while not demanding the clerk/waiter be fired on the spot, suggest that they be reminded of the value of civility and courtesy to the success of any business. Not to report improper behavior to the manager is to perpetuate it, and to perhaps assure that the customer will not only never return, but let others know what happened. The only way a manager has of knowing there is a problem is to bring it to his/her attention.

If there is a problem with a phone representative (usually after dancing through hoops and waiting half an hour to do so), I immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. If I am not satisfied with the response, I ask to speak to the supervisor's supervisor, and ask for the name and address of the head of the company.

I can think of at least two incidents where my refusal to simply acquiesce to what I was told by the first person I talked to saved me several thousand dollars. I would not be in the apartment in which I am now living had I simply accepted the explanation, when I requested to change from my old apartment, that "nothing could be done." It could, and it was. But it would not have been done had I not pursued the issue beyond the first “no.” I never forget that low level bureaucrats have the tendency to assume that they are the organization for which they work, and that what they say is the way it is. Period. It is not.

And even if expressing unhappiness does no my friends are quick to point out that it probably won't...I at least have the satisfaction of knowing I did not suffer in silence, that I did not go gentle into that good night.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

Excellent post, D. EXCELLENT. My mother taught me at an early age not to accept everything I'm told and, if I have a problem with how I'm treated, to speak up. I've followed her teachings to this day. My father did the same thing, only in a quieter way. He was a police officer and if he could be intimidated, I never saw it. He himself was intimidating.

That being said, my parents bought their first DVD player many years back at my suggestion. They weren't fond of new electronics, but they gave it a shot. Sony was in the process of upgrading their disc technology, so several new discs suddenly wouldn't work in the player. Mom contacted Sony and they informed her they could upgrade the machine's software, only they (my parents) would have to pay for it, including shipping both ways.

No. No. And no. I contact Sony, politely explained the concept of purchasing a Sony product with the intent of being able to play Sony discs, which should be playable on their Sony machine. The company should pay for the upgrade and the shipping. And, if not, that's fine, but I worked for an online magazine at the time with a large readership, plus was engaged in social media, and would share my story.

They paid for everything except the shipping to their factory, which I was willing to accept after their very gracious reply.

Dorien Grey said...

Good for you, Kage. And I am firmly convinced that the squeaky wheel DOES get the grease!