Today, a guest yelled at me. Usually I deal with one to two disgruntled (re: absolutely brutish) guests on a shift. It is currently at the halfway point in my shift this evening, and I am on my second hand of counting individuals who just needed to use me as an emotional outlet. On one hand I am sympathetic – there is nothing more exhausting than an entire day of traveling. As someone who has been all over this country and a couple international places, traveling is exhausting. Vacationing is wonderful – the getting there is not. However, as a front desk agent, I can control very little outside the scope of my desk. I cannot fix heavy traffic, unruly children, weather, accidents, construction or anything that is not accessible from my desk. By the tone of some people I interact with, you would think I am Zeus and hurling lightning bolts in rapid succession at some of them, and the way some of them treat me, doing just that has sometimes crossed my mind.
However, I am the most non-confrontational person you could meet. Outside of my realm of quip-happy columns and articles, I am a head-down type of person. Outside of social events that are attended by people I am close to, I am content to sit in a corner and eat quietly until the event is over. The most Libra trait about myself is that I will choose to eat the wrong food instead of letting the server know it was not what I ordered. When I have had guests or customers or managers feel the need to speak to me in a scolding manner, I usually shut down. I fumble in my words, my shoulders slump. I am six years old again and my mother just caught me with a whole bag of Doritos in my room before dinner.
But not today. Today I stood there, holding the luggage cart I had brought for him and I took a deep breath and fought back the lump in my throat. And I told this man that he did not need to speak to me that way. And then I braced for the blowback and rage from this six-foot-tall burly man who towered over my miniscule frame. And he looked at me, and as I felt the lump rising in my throat and the feeling of wanting to let the waterworks flow was growing, it took me a minute to realised that the words he had spoken were “I’m sorry.”
He apologized again when he came up to the desk to get his new keys, and then yet again. He also made a point to shake my hand, and I assured him that we were as cool as cucumbers aspire to be. It took me an hour to really process the outcome of events. I stood my ground, and someone apologized. They did not turn into The Hulk and rip my limbs from my torso, and they did not admonish what I said. Staying calm worked. Keeping my composure worked.
I stand here now completely floored that simply stating that speaking at me actually corrected the bad behaviour! I think a lot of my inner turmoil stems from growing up female in a patriarchal world, never wanting to be labelled as an “itch-b,” and now as a man, never wanting to be seen as hot-headed. So, I cling to the far opposite side of the spectrum of emotions. It felt nice to break free from that, even if for just one tiny minute. To be the one that admonishes and instead of feeling admonished. And if nothing else, that gentleman learned to not use hospitality workers as a punching bag for his emotions. As someone who has 35 years to go before thinking about retirement, that alone puts a smile on my face.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, trans-man and cis-nerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. He proudly serves on the board of Hagerstown Hopes (hagerstownhopesmd.org) and has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is on twitter @ItsAsherK