A post from 3 years ago, in which I had a less than pleasant conversation with a customer at Jimmy John’s, where I worked for a year after college graduation.
Dear Nosy Customer,
Yesterday afternoon, you asked me an innocent enough question: “How long has this Jimmy John’s been open?”
After I answered your first innocent question, you asked me another seemingly innocent question: “Are all of the schools out?”
Being the polite worker that I am, I informed you that JMU and EMU had finished classes and exams, but Bridgewater hadn’t. I then told you I went to BC.
Then came your third could-be-innocent-but-moreso-nosy question: “What was your degree?”
And even though I could have guessed where this conversation was leading, and even though I guessed that it wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have, I put my best customer service skills to work and told you: “Philosophy and Religion.”
I was just doing my job. I was being polite and courteous to you, the customer, who is apparently always right. And how did you repay me?
You then asked the rudest, most despised, obnoxious, and nosy question that anyone, from absolute stranger to dearest friend, could ever ask:
“So what are you going to do with that?”
As if that weren’t intrusive enough, you went on to offend me further by saying, “Just gonna work at Jimmy John’s your entire life?”
You see, good sir, I work with lots of annoying, obnoxious customers day in and day out. I encounter people at my other job complaining that we don’t have enough items (yes, there are things you cannot find at BED BATH AND BEYOND) or need just one more coupon to save just 5 more dollars. I deal with people who didn’t get the proper amount of oregano on their sandwich or are disgusted with the fact that we don’t have salt and pepper. And I coordinate a mentoring program for kids from the rougher sides of the streets, who don’t always have the best manners and give a whole new meaning to the world “holy chaos.”
But to be entirely honest, your comment was the most obnoxious, rude, and intrusive one I’ve received in a long time. And trust me, those kiddos I work with have some choice words during those rougher weeks.
You know why your comment was so offensive to me?
Because I ask myself that question every damn day of my life.
What am I doing with my life? Why am I working two part-time jobs and coordinating a mentoring program after spending 4 expensive years at college? Why am I barely making rent and other payments when the college kids I work with have money to spare on liquor-filled weekends? What is my life going to look like 5 years down the road? Do I even dare look that far ahead? What’s the next step? Where do I go from here?
You see, I think the reason you pissed me off so much yesterday is because I see so much of my own skepticism about my life in your comment. And I hear so much of the world’s skepticism in your words. Whether or not the world’s skepticism is real or imagined, its nagging constantly in my ears.
And it sounds an awful lot like you. But even more so, it sounds an awful lot like me.
I’m sure you didn’t mean any harm. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and have a lot of people in your life that love you dearly. And even if you’re not nice and don’t have a lot of people surrounding you, you’re a gift.
And to be entirely honest, even though I hate that question and others like it and I try so hard to not say it to people who have just graduated, I still ask it. And more often than not, I’m a little judgey about it. And to be even more honest, as I see my friends and peers getting engaged and married, going to grad school, starting families, getting cool new jobs, etc., I’m more than the teensiest bit jealous. Because I want that, and I don’t know if it’s mine to have, or when it’s mine to have.
But please, please, PLEASE…Don’t ever repeat that comment ever again. Not to me, not to any recent graduate in any stage of life, not to any person stuck in a seemingly “menial” job (or multiple ones at that), not even to anyone who seems to have it all together.
Because I have a feeling that no matter what stage of life we’re in, we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, and we don’t always know why we do what we do. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever a stage in life when we have it “all together.” I used to think that when I got to this age, I’d have it all together, and from this letter I just posted, you can already see that I’m nowhere near that stage.
I think we’re just living moment by moment, day by day, hoping that each little decision we make pushes us more to where we need to be.
So yeah. No hard feelings. But please, think before you speak.
Much love and hoping for a better conversation should we meet again,