ONE SUPER LIFE
Tales from the Tripped
“I did not attend his
funeral; but I wrote a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
– Mark Twain
lifetimes ago I had a porter who was an elegant workhorse. He always came to
work fifteen minutes early, hardly ever took a sick day, and honestly didn’t
seem to like taking vacations. He sometimes worked through at least part of
his lunch break, and was always there when he was needed, always easy to
find, always cheerful and friendly and open, always looking to see how he
could be helpful. Working circles around the other staff members, he didn’t
need to be coached, ordered, or supervised, or pushed into getting work
depend on Melvin to do what needed to be done without my asking, or telling
him. He was a dream come true, and a delight to work alongside.
I had a
resident in that same lifetime, who, shortly after moving in, developed an
irrational emotional attachment to Melvin. Out of the blue she started
hating Melvin. Elsie, it was soon learned, was pregnant, her hormones
raging. When Melvin delivered a package or cleaning to her apartment, she
was as likely to scream at him as anything.
Melvin when a contractor two floors up started making noise too early for
her in the morning. She blamed Melvin when the cleaning didn’t include all
of the items she had been expecting.
reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on the highway once. It read: I don’t
have PMS – I just really hate you.
She was a
nightmare. Melvin became nervous around her (who wouldn’t), petrified of her
rages, and began to decline to deliver dry cleaning or packages to her
apartment anymore. We worked around it. We hoped it was only because she was
pregnant, and things would get better post-partum. In the meantime, we
decided that all we could do to help was to keep the two as far away from
each other as we could.
“Everything is funny, as
long as it's happening to somebody else.”
thing is, it seemed it was only Melvin that Elsie chose to loathe. She was
an angel to the rest of us. I couldn’t figure out how such a sweetie could
be so nasty, all wrapped up in the same package. It was truly like she was
two people. It seemed there was nothing that Melvin did to bring it on,
except to exist, to be. And long after the baby was through the terrible
twos, she still showed her negative emotional attachment to Melvin.
no accounting for taste, as the saying goes. There is also no accounting or
explanation for emotional attachments of the positive OR negative kind in
some people, at certain times.
wonder why it is that someone suddenly falls in love with someone in a
totally improper situation? It might have happened to you as a teen, or
since adulthood. Or to someone you know, or knew in the distant past. No
matter how inappropriate or damaging it can potentially be, it seems that
some folks cannot help themselves, they just fall in love with some one,
what I call developing “irrational hots” for somebody else. We see this all
the time where a supposedly happily married person suddenly develops an
infatuation with a person not their spouse, and all hell breaks loose in
their established relationship.
same way with the hates. No matter how dumb or irrational or destructive it
might be to themselves, their families, or others, there are times when
someone will develop an irrational and inexplicable hate or extreme dislike
for someone else.
“Expecting the world to
treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting
the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”
– Dennis Wholey
nothing that the victim, or anyone around the victim, can do to talk him or
her out of that sentiment. Since it’s irrational, it cannot be explained,
nor can it be justified. Nor can it be changed if it cannot be seen by the
perpetrator. It just is, and it’s all too real. It seems impossible to deal
with, it’s unfair, it’s unjust, perverse, troubling.
How do you
deal with such an illogical and unreasonable emotion, whether it’s directed
at you or at one of your staff?
thing to realize is this: to the extent that the person on the receiving end
has done nothing wrong to deserve such irrational, ignorant unjustified
hate, there is nothing that can be done to ameliorate it. That is to say: if
it’s irrational, then there is no reason for it. If there’s no reason for
it, there is no direct way to combat it.
an adage to the effect that time heals all wounds. Of course it isn’t really
time that does it. The human creature is such a resilient living thing that
in time we heal anyway, some times despite ourselves.
many ways to deal with an irrational emotion directed at you or your people.
One is simply to say, “I don’t care what you think of me, it bothers me but
I will go on doing my job no matter what.” Almost as if to say: If I can
achieve notoriety by being hated by the right people, what’s that say about
them? Like a badge of honor, it may be something in which to take a perverse
“This is courage in a
man: to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends.” -
some ways is exactly what Melvin did. He tried to avoid her, because to have
invective and blame hurled at you day after day for just doing your job is a
huge emotional drain. But he never lost his concentration, never stopped
doing his job. Since there was nothing he did to deserve the treatment, he
just kept on going as if it wasn’t happening. Didn’t lash out, didn’t strike
back. Just kept on keeping on, doing his job.
To keep on
doing your job, and doing it well, right through adverse treatment, now
that’s the essence of real character.
We all get
this to a certain extent at some point or other in our lives; I think supers
and other building support personnel in New York City get it more than those
in many other service sectors. I get frustrated and discouraged at times and
wish to quit, to give up, to stop slogging on and working through the
really work for you to have a thick skin in this vocation, because in a
mid-level management job such as this, you are quite often given great
responsibility yet have little real power. Consequently, you get the blame
for things you have no power to change. You must often look to, and wait
patiently (or impatiently) for, others to come to a decision. In many cases
you have to wait for someone else to make a decision about the bigger
picture before you can make a lesser decision that really should have been
made yesterday, or last week, or even last year.
sometimes if I have skin of sufficient thickness to keep on. I get
discouraged and disheartened and wonder, at least momentarily, if I’m in the
right business. But keeping on, my friends, is exactly what we must do. Even
when you get the blame for something you have no responsibility for. Even
when you feel like you never get the recognition for your loyalty, for your
honesty, for your great work ethic, for work above and beyond the call of
duty, for a particular job well done, even when you get only blame for
someone else’s decision that was less than well made.
“To be loved is to be
fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction.”
- Minna Antrim
the hatred or revulsion or disgust or distaste or aversion or loathing or
abhorrence toward you or one of your crew is palpable, and no matter how
illogical or unreasonable or difficult or perverse or unjust, this is not
the time to quit. Think about it all you want, talk about it if you must,
but DON’T DO IT.
exactly the time to step back up to the plate, to gain new resolve, and take
another crack at bat.
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