Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Boundaries

Boundaries, respect, and polite behavior, it seems lately, have gone the way of the T-Rex.  I don't know if working in customer service has made me more sensitive to the fact that some people are rude and have no boundaries, or if this is just becoming a national epidemic of railroading over boundaries, leaving filters at home, and in general behaving like "Me, me, me!"

At the library where I work, people come up to the desk and reach over it to take pens, pencils, Internet passcodes, and scratch paper right out from under our noses.  I'm still waiting for the day someone comes up and plucks the pen right out of my hand.  Some people still ask, but there are those that seem content to just take stuff off our desk.  We have patrons who collect their prints and then walk behind the desk rather than around it to return to their computers.  Patrons behind the Circulation and Reference desks are frowned upon mostly because the work we do involves personal information of the people we check books out to.  Any idiot can waltz back there and catch a glimpse of a phone number, address, email address or items checked out under a certain name and that is a violation of privacy.  Therefore, do NOT wander behind the desk like you own it.  Public building does not mean public to do whatever the hell people want.  What's next, urinating on the back wall?

Then there are the people that come in drunk, the people who stare at us with hostility until we ask them what they would like rather than just telling us or asking a polite question, and those that make rude comments about other patrons who are doing absolutely nothing wrong.  For example one patron made a comment about having to sit next to a "fat guy" on one of the computers, and another patron asked the length of a library sponsored program so she would have an idea of just "how long was she going to be bored?" And then there's my favorite, the guy who came in and announced to the whole building "I'm fucking drunk!" and then was asked to leave until he could conduct himself in a manner with more decorum.

This doesn't just happen at the library either.  I've had people shove in front of me in line at the grocery store, another lady who leaned over my shoulder at Starbucks before I had collected my drink and change and announce to the whole store, "Venti skinny vanilla latte!" and people who run red lights right in front of me nearly causing an accident.  The sad thing is the majority of people are nice, polite, and generous.  I've had people in line in front of me pay for my groceries.  Many of our library patrons pay for their prints with too much change and tell us to keep it.  People donate money to the library, smile when they come in and say hello, and tell us what a great service we provide.

Unfortunately it's people like the girl digging dimes out of her crotch to pay for her prints who demand the impossible, and then post an unfavorable online review when we can't help them.  For some reason the rudest people seem to stand out the  most because they make their unpleasant presences so much more noticeable than the nice, polite people.  It's like people who must be noticed and be the center of the universe at all times realize that the ruder and nastier they are, the more attention they receive.  They learn this from the media, as per the latest presidential election.

Animals have no boundaries either and for some reason their lack of boundaries, respect, and patience doesn't seem to irritate me as much as when people do it.  Don't get me wrong.  My pets' lack of boundaries can still get annoying, but they do it with a cute furry face, whiskers, and big mushy eyes, so they are more easily forgiven.  My cats especially have zero boundaries.  Percy marches into the bathroom even when the door is closed, and just to make his point, he will loudly bang the door open so that it rebounds off the wall.  Then he'll sit at my feet and watch me.  He also waits until I have prepared my lunch and I sit down with it before he very purposefully goes into the box and takes the smelliest dump he can.  That's his trick for getting me up in the morning too.  If he wants to eat, and he wants to eat now, he will run through the house wailing, and then he will lay a stink so bad that I have to get up to clean the litter box.  It will make your eyes water, I'm not kidding.

Willow, if given the chance, will crawl into my lap, work her way up my shirt until and she is in my face, so close that I can smell her tuna fish breath.  She's sneaky about it too.  She likes to be on the bed when I'm in it reading and she starts off at the foot, where the cats belong because I'm allergic to pet hair and don't like animals on the pillows.  Soon she stretches her front legs out and yawns, all innocent, and suddenly her body has oozed forward a few inches.  She does this subtly and over a period of a half hour until suddenly she is right up against my side, close to my pillow.  I will move her back down to the foot of the bed where she waits ten minutes and starts the whole process over again.  On the couch, she starts off on the back of the couch where she is allowed to sit.  Then suddenly she oozes down onto the seat and pretty soon she's in my lap.  I'm not even sure how she got there.  Then there was the other night when California Guy prepared dinner.  Willow and Percy are not allowed on the counter except to use it as a medium from the floor to the ledge above the refrigerator.  They know this.  They usually don't try to get away with it.  Willow jumped up onto the ledge the other night and stayed up there for an hour before jumping down.  Instead of jumping off the counter immediately as she usually does, she sauntered casually across the sink and over to the where the leftover steak was sitting and tried to help herself.

She's helped herself to my tuna fish sandwich before too.  And right under my nose to boot.

Tess came to me with no boundaries.  She stomped on feet, climbed on the bed, jumped on people, barged down the stairs in front of me, shoved me aside in her haste to greet new people - she was a mess.  Nine years later I have her somewhat under control, though she still stomps on feet occasionally.  Surina has no boundaries either.  When she wants to be pet she shoves her nose under our hands and burrows until we scratch her ears.  She's not allowed on my bed, though she doesn't accept this and will still try to sneak on it if we leave her alone in my bedroom.  She has the least boundaries when it comes to food and cooking.  She has actually shouldered me out of the way to glue herself beside California Guy while he's cooking, and she will hover practically in Tess' bowl waiting for Tess to drop food on the floor so she can swoop in and clean it up.  Luckily Tess is not food aggressive or a nervous dog, or we would have had bloodshed several times.

The nice thing about dogs is how easy it is to set boundaries.  Surina and Tess both are extremely smart dogs and it takes me maybe two or three corrections before they figure out pretty quickly what is and is not acceptable.  Surina barged past me on the steps once.  I made her come back upstairs, wait, then follow me down and after that she had it.  She lets me go first now.  When I'm cooking I have to send her out of the kitchen, mostly because I have tripped over cats before and nearly ended up with my head in the oven.  Surina is so in-your-face when one is cooking that I've tripped over her a few times, so I finally had to block her from coming near the food preparation just so she got the message that she is not welcome while I'm cooking. I'm clumsy enough as it is.  I don't need paws and a tail tripping me while I'm handling the cleaver. With California Guy she can do whatever she wants, that's his deal.  I have to make it out of the kitchen in one piece, or at least without second degree burns on my face.  And the other day I finally had to block her from getting in Tess' face while Tess ate her food because she was hovering so closely.  She still had food in her bowl, but she was more concerned about cleaning up after Tess and it was starting to make Tess nervous.  Surina will challenge me once or twice when I block her and try to get around me, but she very quickly learns to respect my boundaries and backs off.  When I first got Tess, I had the same issues with boundaries, but it only took a few corrections (and a couple of knock-down drag-out fights) and she figured out pretty quickly that she needed to respect my boundaries.

It would be nice if people were as easy.  Unfortunately a slap on the wrist of a grasping hand trying to take a pen off my desk is frowned on at the library. I miss the days of the yard stick We are not allowed to touch the patrons, and smacking them is probably grounds for a lawsuit.  With the dogs I just snap my fingers or use my body to set a boundary and they have it.  If I snap my fingers at a person they get offended and huffy because I"m the one being rude.  My coworker once stopped someone from reaching across her desk by saying "Excuse me, boundaries!" and the patron actually had the nerve to retort, "Oh, there are boundaries now?" like there haven't always been.  My coworker responded with "Yes, and you're about to cross another one!"

Personal space is very important and I guess I can't understand why so many people don't seem to understand that they need to respect that.  As an introvert, I value my personal space even more.  I don't like people standing too close to me when speaking, I don't like people touching me for no reason unless I know them very well, and I don't like being calling me sweetie, honey, babes, sweetheart or what have you by people I hardly know. I also don't like it when people show up at my door without calling first, and I really don't like people just walking into my house and going through my things. Given the choice I'd rather a dog or cat in my personal bubble than a stranger who seems to think my body and my space are there to use at their disposal. California Guy is the exception.  He's in my personal bubble a lot, but him I don't mind. When dogs and cats push boundaries, it's not personal.  They are just challenging the hierarchy, see what they can get away with it.  They are usually quite content to have boundaries set so they know where they stand.  People get butthurt when boundaries are set, and if they cross them they seem to think they are entitled to that.  When I correct Surina or Tess or Willow, they don't take it personally and they are back a second later for hugs and cuddles, only this time they wait to be invited.  They don't start disliking me just because I don't let them get away with whatever they want.  I don't seem to get that same courtesy from some people.  Set a boundary and suddenly I'm a bitch or I'm rude or I'm unfriendly.  This is a basic human right, I believe, to have one's personal space and body respected.  We are not, after all, just the supporting cast to other people's self-centered mini-movies.  We are all individuals.

There is a reason why good fences make good neighbors.

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