I mean, I’ve had worse, but this one was a special brand of frustration.
About a jillion things went wrong and my supervisor was on a micromanaging tear, but this one anecdote stands out as a Sisyphean hell.
An elderly woman called my workplace asking for directions. This was slightly harder for me than it should’ve been because nobody’s ever done that before, and I seldom if ever pay attention to street signs. So without a polished rote answer for her, she had to heard me think aloud and troubleshoot just a bit before I came up with the correct directions. “Okay,” she said. “Let me repeat this back to you and make sure I got it right.” She repeated the directions, and I interjected with a landmark that I thought might help. “You’ll turn left at the McDonald’s.”
“I thought you’d said I turn right at MacDougal.”
“Yes, I did, that’s correct. McDonald’s is a just a landmark. You’ll turn left there, then right at MacDougal.”
“Well, that’s very confusing. Now, let me see if I’ve got it straight.” She repeats the directions step by step. I tell her yes, they are correct. But she wants to get it straight so she repeats them back again. And again, I say yes, they are correct. At this point, I asked if she had internet access, praying I could pawn her off on Google Maps, but no such luck. So she repeats the directions again. And I say yes, they are correct. So repeats them back again. And I say yes, that’s it. So she repeats them back again. And I say yes, they are correct. So she repeats them again. And I say yes, m’aam, it’s a left and two rights. And she says that’s not what I said the first time. So she repeats them back again. And now I’m so turned around that I can hardly tell left from right, or right from wrong, or my asshole from my elbow. Suddenly I couldn’t help but recall that one class period in fourth graded during I convinced myself that “we” was spelled with an “h” in it because I’d stared at the word too long for the letters to make sense anymore.
Every couple of times she goes over it again, I try to throw in an extra tidbit to ease her anxiety (“It’ll be a T-shaped intersection, so you can only turn one way”) but the additional information only seems to complicate the picture for her. So I tell her that I’m pretty certain the first set of directions I provided were accurate. So she repeats them back again and asks me if they’re correct. And I say yes, you got it. So she repeats them again. And I say, “Yup, that’s it. Is there anything else I can help you with?” And she says, “Now, hold on a minute, I wanna make sure I get this right.” So she repeats them again. And I confirm that they’re absolutely correct. So she repeats them again.
This went on for approximately somewhere between fifteen minutes and fifteen years. Like Buffy and the mummy hand, only real.
I eventually lost my wits, let the phone drop, and waved over my supervisor who gave her a completely different set of directions, managed to get her off the phone in a fraction of the time, and then lectured me about patience and the appearance of positive attitudes.