I was thinking about the human dynamics of my part time job the other day when I realized it was analogous to that of survivors stranded on a deserted island. There are those who try desperately to get off; those who have accepted their fate with bitterness; and those who have accepted it with grace and humility. And yes, there are those who actually like the island but, as in my job, they are few and far between.
In situations as these—minimum wage jobs and other such shipwreck scenarios—coping strategies are brought to the forefront. Behaviours in these theatres of the absurd can be extreme, even bizarre. Take this one conversation I had with a fellow employee. I had just met this person; it was our second conversation with the first being rather perfunctory.
Colleague: I am tired today
Me: Yeah, me too
Colleague: I had a friend over last night
Colleague: Yeah, you know when you have someone new in your bed how it’s hard to sleep?
Others (and I definitely include myself) cope with behaviours that range from passive-aggressiveness to humour, perfectionism to flirtation. The job is a microcosm of the human stage: incredibly fascinating and endlessly entertaining. Moreover, when I can sit in the observer’s seat with a dispassionate eye I not only learn a lot about myself but can be more compassionate about some of the more ridiculous things we all can do to be seen, heard and just plain validated.
The other day, for example, I found myself trying to dig up dirt on a fellow employee. This employee had hurt me, albeit indirectly, when she had asked, rather indelicately, about a facet of my appearance of which I am very sensitive. Fortunately, the person I had tried to recruit as a co-conspirator didn’t respond the way I had hoped and the malicious intent of my question: "so how is it to work with so and so?" went by unnoticed. Later, in the comforts of home, I thought about how I had almost entered the shark-infested waters of gossip. At first I was just plain disgusted with myself. I hung on to that for a few moments until I realized that I didn’t need to go there. No damage was done, nothing was stirred up, and no one was hurt. True I had crossed a line, there is no denying that, but in that crossing it also enabled me to explore a part of myself that I don’t like to acknowledge: my passive aggressiveness. This part is age-old. And, while I can normally keep it under control by a more mature ability to respond directly when hurt or challenged, I am currently living on my own deserted island: I am not always at my best.
So, with just a little bit of introspection, I worked through why I had felt the need to do it: I was hurting; I was angry about being hurt and, because I hadn’t responded appropriately at the time of the insult, that is, stated how her comment hurt me, was using passive-aggressive tools in an attempt to make myself feel better. Then I thought about my intended victim. I don’t really think she consciously intended to insult me. Perhaps she was trying a one-upmanship on appearances but, in reality, I also know her to have poor boundaries (hence the comment) and even poorer coping strategies. Then again, mine were not so great either.
Sigh. Living and learning as I go.