Monday, 17 June 2013
I've been working direct with the public since 1979. It's given me some skills but, if only to preserve my sanity and self-respect, it's also forced me to develop some ground rules. Well, just one really; deal with me as an equal or don't deal with me. That attitude goes down better with some people than others. For years I worked in Housing Benefits, sorting out people's problems face to face, and my approach seemed to work. Only when I started working in public libraries ten years ago did I realise how little truck I have with hoity toityness. It's a class issue for sure. Public libraries attract all sorts- the homeless, the jobless, the lonely and the snooty. But what I find with the middle classes is, context is everything. If you met one of them socially and told them you work in a library they'd probably be quite approving. But face to face, on the ground, a lot of them seem to decide you're just some wanker stood behind a counter and treat you with the toffee-nosed contempt they think that warrants. Not something that sits well with me, to put it mildly. I think it's important to apply what Chomsky calls a principle of universality ie if they can be rude to me, I can be rude to them. I was showing a customer how the self-service system worked a year or two ago. He had earphones on, taking a phone call all the while, which he refused to interrupt to speak to me or listen to me. I called him a cock under my breath. He evidently heard me as after he'd left the library, he turned round and came back in and said to me, 'I wasn't being rude just then.' Even that irritated me, the fact it wasn't even an apology, just a smug assertion of innocence. Cock.