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If it weren't for the clients…

I’ve been ranting on my blog recently about stupidity.

It’s all jolly amusing of course, and the sort of people who read my blog do like a spot of snark along with their whimsy and accounts of derring do, but it’s led me into a spot of more serious thought.

When I worked in the NHS we used to joke that we’d have a great job if it weren’t for the patients. And we’d laugh about how stupid people were. We’d tell stories and jokes about stupendous idiocy, the London Ambulance Service 999 control room even kept a book of the daftest things people the great general public said and did. (My favourite, “he’s bleeding down below!” The despatcher took this to be a euphemism for some sort of rectal haemorrhage but the poor chap turned out to have been stabbed in the downstairs flat.)

I’ve learned not to say it, not thinking it is harder.

Then I moved on to run my own business, a charming B&B in Ontario (you can read a bit about it here) and the tales of stupidity, madness and chaos came so thick and fast, there will be a book. It’s difficult to choose a favourite, between the couple who set fire to their bedroom, the woman who would occasionally develop diabetes for attention, and the chap who kept on accusing the housekeeper of stealing his money, until we found it all mangled and covered in worms in the swimming pool filter basket because he’d jumped in with wallet in pocket.

Another decade, another job and I found myself installing and troubleshooting Lifeline buttons for the elderly and vulnerable. I was a bit more patient this time around, we all fear change and quite often the little button I presented as a means of safety and independence would symbolise all the losses and indignities of age. I got it, I was nice, I didn’t turn my lovely clients into a stand-up routine. Often.

I did lose it a bit on the Thanksgiving Sunday afternoon when I cancelled a family meal to drive for two hours to troubleshoot an emergency breakdown of the system. The loudspeaker was malfunctioning, the lady said. It was making a constant noise which she’d not heard before. She refused to test her button because she couldn’t bear to be in the same room as the noise of the machine.

It was, of course, working perfectly. She’d knocked the transistor radio, next to it on the bedside cabinet, off station and was hearing a load of static.

I’ve moved on a few times since then, researching madcap enterprises to see if they’re interesting enough to write about and some of them are. But the writing is getting snarky. Just now, for instance, I’m investigating the wacky world of pest controllers and you’d be amazed how stupid people can be around wasps, bees, fleas and bedbugs, but mainly wasps. It’s a great source of snark.

I’ve written blog posts about people who can’t tell a wasp from a bee; people who think it’s a great idea to set fire to a wasps’ nest and are then surprised that the wasps get a bit cross; people who poke the nests with sticks and people who use ever more inventive things to block up the hole they see the wasps going in and out of.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said to people, “if you think about where the nest is, on the inside of your building, you’ll see why you now have a house full of wasps. You stopped them getting out, so now they’re coming in.” It’s all jolly fun to write about. This week’s blog is all about the various sorts of foam that you really shouldn’t use to block up the entrance to a wasps’ nest.

But, and this is the point, it’s not their job to think about it, is it?

We all have customers, clients or patients, whatever business we’re in, unless we hide away in some research lab or other. And we all get driven nuts by them; every job would be great if it weren’t for them and how stupid and difficult they are. But, and to my shame, I’ve only just got this: we need them to be stupid and difficult. It’s our job to think and to know about what we do, why should they?

Let’s face it, if everyone knew as much as we do about what we do, no-one would pay us to do it. So, I am resolving to be a little more patient and forgiving, mayhap a tad less superior and snotty as I explain to yet another family what a pillock their dad is for cementing up their wasps on the inside. The snarky blog will remain though, it’s the only fun I get.


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