That story of the flight attendant who grabbed a couple of beer, shouted he’d had enough of flight attending and being insulted by the public, then activated the emergency chute and slid down it to disappear over the horizon…What a guy, eh? A free spirit, fed up with the ugly, complaining, never-satisfied public. No wonder they’ve started a website to hail him as a latter-day hero.
But hold. There’s another side to this kind of interface. A woman I know, in her mid-70s, suffers from crippling arthritis. Just over six months ago she had an appointment to get her feet done by a chiropodist person or whatever they call feet people these days, in the local hospital. The day as it happened was one of deep snow and slippery roads, so by the time her daughter got her to the hospital she was eight minutes late for her appointment. The foot woman’s reaction? No, you’re eight minutes late, that’s it, forget it. The 75-year-old pleaded extenuating circumstances, like the snow and her arthritic condition, and that on almost every occasion she’d attended prior to this, she’d been kept waiting half an hour, three-quarters of an hour. Shouldn’t there be a quid pro quo? Not a good idea. The feet woman told the prospective patient that in that case, she’d leave explicit instructions for her next appointment: keep this woman waiting eight minutes. By this time, the 75-year-old was pretty upset, a fact noted by her daughter when she arrived after parking the car. She tried to remonstrate with the feet woman, you’re not supposed to give vulnerable people like my mother a hard time…Big mistake. Inside minutes the daughter had been reduced to tears. Eventually the feet got done, but at a high emotional cost for mother and daughter.
When they got home and recovered somewhat, the woman and her daughter wrote separate letters of complaint to the Hospital Trust about the bullying treatment they’d been subjected to. After six months had elapsed – you heard me, six months – the 75-year-old got a letter telling her the feet woman apologised for what had happened. The 75-year-old wrote back and said she didn’t want the feet woman disciplined or dismissed or anything else, but she would like an apology in person. The abusive treatment had been meted out face-to-face, the apology should occur in similar circumstances, not second-hand in the post. So did the Trust write back saying they were arranging it and they’d be in touch? Hah. Not a peep. Over and out.
What am I saying? I’m saying that while the public can be hard to put up with – we’ve all seen and heard insufferable passengers on flights – there are those dealing with the public who are equally insufferable, and in this case insulting to the brink of abuse. The fact is, the feet woman’s wages are being paid by the public – you, me, the 75-year-old. So when’s the last time you heard an employee tell the boss off and then keep him/her waiting over six months before a second-hand apology gets delivered by post? And did you know that after a six-month period, it can be difficult-to-impossible to take legal action against someone?
I’m all for the free-spirited man, beer in hand, zipping down the chute to freedom. But I’m even more for the less-glamorous case of the 75-year-old woman. Ain’t nobody going to set up a website and get her so much as a half-decent apology.