February 3rd, 2013

piranha - tundra red.

A really, really bad day at work.

Yesterday I had one of the most infuriating shifts ever.  A resident had reserved the Clubhouse for a birthday party; we have a policy that if an event is small (under 20 people) a resident can use the Clubhouse for free.  Over 20 people?  The event will be charged the normal hourly rate.  This policy has been in effect as long as I've been at the job, although we've gotten stricter about enforcing it ever since the Clubhouse was remodeled in 2011.

She comes in to let me know she's starting her set-up, which is fine.  As she leaves, I hear her mention to a companion that there will be "twenty little girls" at the birthday party.  Instantly, my brain's on red alert.  Any time you have a kid's party, there's going to be trouble because kids are noisy and other residents will call and complain - but that isn't what has me concerned.  It's that number - twenty.  If there are twenty kids, we have one of two scenarios:
1 - She's going to have twenty kids with no adult supervision, which is a nightmare scenario, or
2 - She's going to be way over twenty guests, at which point we're supposed to charge.

I wonder if there's an exception for kids that I'm not remembering, so I text my boss to ask.  She replies that non-exclusive parties are under twenty, no exceptions, whatsoever. Kids count.

So I brace myself for what I suspect will be an unpleasant conversation, and explain to the resident that when a party is over twenty people, we have to charge them the normal hourly rate.  She immediately lashes out and says that I'm always a "pain" when she comes in, and it's only twenty girls so it doesn't count.  I reply that children are included in the headcount, so she declares that I am rude and asks what is she supposed to do, tell the parents they can't stay?  I reply that the parents are certainly welcome to stay.  She calls me a pain again and huffs out.  A few minutes later, her son/male companion comes in and we have the exact same conversation, minus the name-calling.

I try to call my boss to tell her there's a problem and I'm not sure what to do.  My boss responds that she's at the gun range and I can't talk now.  I text her that the woman's party is way over twenty people, but she's insisting that she shouldn't pay.  Silence.

The woman comes in again and asks me to make coffee for her.  I tell her that non-exclusive parties (that's what we call unpaid events) have to bring their own coffee.  She yells at me that the coffee is FOR HER and THE PARTY IS LITTLE GIRLS WHY WOULD THEY WANT COFFEE???  If she hadn't already insulted me, I probably would have made the coffee to be nice, but instead I stuck to policy and replied that we can't make coffee after 12:00, so sorry.  She shrieks that SHE HAS LIVED HERE FOR TWENTY YEARS AND NEVER HAD A CUP OF COFFEE, SHE DOESN'T EVEN DRINK COFFEE NORMALLY BUT SHE REALLY NEEDS IT TODAY AND HOW DARE I REFUSE TO MAKE IT!!!  I am SUCH A PAIN AND RUDE AND SHE WILL TALK TO MY MANAGER ON MONDAY!

At this point, I'm getting really frustrated because I can't talk to my boss and I really need to know what she wants me to do.  Am I charging this resident the hourly rate or not?  I mean, she ought to be charged - as the guests trickle in I see between 12-16 girls (they're running all over the place so it's hard to count them exactly) and 8-10 adults, so she is definitely over twenty people.    Finally, I get a text from my boss saying to ignore it and don't charge.

At that moment, I was really disappointed in my boss.  Only a few minutes before, she had told me that there were absolutely no exceptions ever to the 20 and under policy, so I confronted the woman.  If my boss was just going to make an exception instead of backing me up, she should have told me - she booked this party and spoke to the host, so she knew it was coming!

Of course, a party with that many kids is going to be noisy - I could hear the kids shrieking and pounding their feet all over.  That woman's unpleasantness had actually made me feel sick to my stomach - which I don't think has ever happened before - so I was sitting in the back trying to ignore the party.  Then, the mother of the birthday girl - the only person who had been polite to me - came in to request a volume adjustment on the sound system.  As she left, I heard her mutter something about "these people here" and I was confused - all I had done was turn the volume down on her music at her request - what was she upset about??

Oh.  It turns out that while the kids were playing on the grass outside, one of the residents had come out and yelled at them about the noise and told them they couldn't play outside.  How did I find out?  She called me and told me she'd had an "altercation" with them.  Now, this particular resident is notorious for calling in complaints and then refusing to identify herself - since this has been her pattern for as long as I've worked here, I've learned to recognize her voice.  She rambled on and on about how I needed to talk to the party and how they shouldn't be playing by the waterfall because they'd drown and BLAH BLAH BLAH - finally, I had to cut her off and say that I couldn't talk to them like she wanted unless she let me off the phone.

By then, the party had moved back indoors to eat pizza and cake so I didn't talk to them.  I didn't see it, so I wasn't going to get involved, especially since the resident host was shooting daggers at me every time she walked by the office doorway or I walked out to the main room to turn the lights on or check the volume.

I don't know why this made me so angry.  There are far worse things than being called "a pain", y'know?  I think it's because it was so unjustified; it isn't "rude" to mention a policy, especially one that I had no hand in creating.  I think I was also frustrated because the son/husband/??? of the host brushed me off completely when I told him the charging policy - he just turned to his mother and said, "She doesn't matter anyway, we'll just talk to [my boss] on Monday.  Ignore what she says."  And then my boss went ahead and said don't charge them, effectively rendering that statement true.  I mean, I know that I'm at the bottom of the power chain at work, but if  I don't have any authority than what's the point in having me here in the first place?

At least the son seemed to feel a tiny bit of remorse - he brought me a piece of cake and said he thought that we'd perhaps "gotten off on the wrong foot".  It was a small gesture and I don't think it really counts as an apology, but I appreciated that he was trying to improve the situation.  My stomach was so upset that I couldn't eat the cake, though.

I wonder if the resident really will call to complain.  My boss said she wouldn't, so I hope I can just forget about all this.  But on the other hand, if she does complain tomorrow I'll be working (my boss took the day off) so confrontation will be delightful, I'm sure.