Random Acts of Entitlement & Kindness
Being both an only child and a former elementary school teacher, I'm more than aware of what entitlement looks like as it pertains to kids. Solipsism is natural to babies and young children—you cry and someone feeds you; you go poop and someone changes your diaper. It's up to the parents to eventually teach their young ones that the world does not actually revolve around their immediate needs. Some kids learn it faster than others. Some never learn it at all. Living in the Bay Area and perusing the internet from time to time, I'm getting a first class education in what entitlement looks like as it pertains to adults. What do I mean specifically by that? I mean the idea that rules—let's say retail store hours, for example—are arbitrary. I mean random acts like the absolutely insane email that I once received from someone demanding a personal booze delivery for a party at 9 PM on a Saturday night. When I told this person that we closed at 7 PM and wouldn't be able to set up a courier, he then attempted to blackmail me by threatening to write a negative Yelp review online if we couldn't comply. I didn't write back after that.
I often wonder if occurances like that (occurances that I see more and more around me each week) seem crazy to others. To me, it's simply the age we live in nowadays: give me what I want, or else. I don't care what the rules say. I don't care about what's possible, or not. I want what I want, when I want it. I was picking up my shirts the other day from the tiny little dry cleaner near my home, when I noticed the owner was distressed. I've been going there for about five years now and I'm usually pretty friendly with the woman who runs it. She's always incredibly friendly in return, but on this particular day she seemed sullen. I asked her what was wrong, and she proceeded to vent:
"I had a very angry woman come in last week with a stain on her dress asking me if I could help get it out. I told her I would try, but I couldn't guarantee it."
"So did you get it out?" I asked.
"No, and this morning I found a negative review online, saying that we had promised her we would remove the stain, complaining about our service and trashing our business as a whole. I don't know why somebody would write something like that. It isn't true." she said with serious pain in her voice.
There's a natural human tendency to react with anger when things don't go your way. To yell out when you miss the traffic signal. To curse when you break another wine glass in the sink. And often with kids, to hurt others when their feelings are hurt—to blame others when things don't work out as planned. Like when your teenage son screams out "I hate you!" and slams the door to his room when you won't let him go to a friend's party on Saturday night. But in adults, when that behavior extends out to the general public, it's despicable and reprehensible. When it happens online as a form of cyber-bullying, it can be one of the worst possible aspects of anonymity. People will say things about you from the safety of their laptop that they would never dare say to your face. And, believe me, they'll say all kinds of things. I've had my own fair share of it over the years, and the more I talk to others in my community, the more I realize I'm not alone.
But what can you do about it? Nothing really. People don't often change once they've reached a certain point. The Walking Dead does a great job of weaving this very human element into its zombie narrative. The characters try repeatedly to appeal to their humanity in a last-ditch attempt to keep civilization ("civil" being the key word) alive. Rarely do they succeed, however. What am I going to do about it? The same thing I always do each holiday season at K&L. I respond to random acts of entitlement with my own random acts of kindness. They're totally impulsive, completely emotional repsonses to whatever happens in the store that day. I may give a complete stranger a free sample bottle that I have on my desk. I might dig into my storage locker and find the perfect wine from my own personal collection to help a client in need. In rare instances, I've been known to make things like Stagg and Pappy available to people who were never looking for it in the first place. My co-workers love it when I do that. The looks on the customers faces when we pull that out of our hat is pretty incredible..
For every person I see scold some poor barista at Starbucks over the temperature of their coffee, I'll do something to negate that negativity. For every jerk who drives all the way down to the Highway 92 merger and cuts the line at the last second, I'll do something to offset that offensiveness. For every act of adult entitlement I see on a daily basis here in the Bay Area, I'll do something special for a customer at K&L. It's the only way I can get to sleep at night.