I've known for a long time that people generally don't care about good intentions. It's your actions, and the end result of those actions, that count. Working in retail or customer service tends to drum that into you. In some ways, I share that point of view. But I also try to be sympathetic to people who fail to do the right thing, either by accident or ignorance, but who mean well. I try to cut them some slack, because good intentions mean a lot to me, as do apologies.
Maybe it just appears this way to me, because I tend to remember unpleasant experiences much more clearly than positive ones. But it seems that, more often than not, I encounter people who aren't quite that charitable.
* * *
I recently had a bad experience with a patient where there things just kept going wrong. Her glasses are the kind with the magnetic sunglass clip-on, a great idea in principle, but one that can be problematic in the real world.
While on vacation, one of the screws in her glasses came loose and a lens fell out. With the help of a local jeweller she had managed to secure the frame with a small wire, and when she got back home she came to the clinic to have a proper screw put in. I did that, but I had to re-align the frame afterwards, and in the process the screw broke inside the barrel, and nothing I did could remove the pieces.
Fortunately, we had another frame just like hers on display. I had a very tough time getting the lenses to fit, however - they seemed to be a fraction of a millimetre to large, which is all it takes. I finally managed to get them in, and again had to re-align the frame - very carefully. I mentioned to the patient that I thought the lenses were a little too large and were putting a lot of stress on the screws, and I feared she might have a recurrence of her vacation mishap. So she gave us her glasses, and we sent them off to the lab to have the lenses edged down.
When the glasses came back, the magnetic clip-on didn't fit properly - a common occurrence, especially when the precscription is as high as hers, because it can alter the shape of the frame slightly. Usually I can adjust the clip-on to fit, but this time was a no-go. I spent hours trying everything I could think of, but the magnets just wouldn't line up with each other. I suspect that the alignment I had done earlier was at least partially responsible for the problem.
When the patient came in to pick up her glasses, I regretfully explained the predicament to her, and gave her a couple of options. We could have a custom clip-on made, free of charge, but it would not be the magnetic kind. The other option was to put her lenses into yet another frame and try all over again.
She didn't lose her temper, but she was far from pleased. She kept looking skyward and shaking her head, with an expression best described as, "Why me, God, why?"
The decision was apparently too difficult to make at that time, so she left with her glasses and said she'd make up her mind later. I haven't heard from her since.
* * *
Earlier in the month, Ron and I were returning from a movie. I was driving, and as we approached GM Place, we were faced with a backlog of traffic and people swarming over the sidewalks and streets. Some big event in the colliseum had obviously just concluded, and with the transit strike, there were more cars on the road than usual.
I made a right turn on red, and a traffic cop blew his whistle at me and held up his hand. For some reason, I didn't think, "Stop." Instead, I thought, "Pull over," which I tried to do. I thought he was nailing me for making the right on red, although I hadn't seen any signs indicating such a manoever was prohibited.
He blew his whistle at me again. I slowed down, but continued to make my way towards the curb.
Finally he barked at me, "STOP!!!" I complied immediately, and rolled down my window.
"I just told you to stop, okay? he snapped.
"I'm sorry," I squeaked.
"What part of the word 'stop' don't you understand?"
"I'm sorry." Those were the only words I was capable of forming. I was too rattled to think of explaining to him that I'd thought he wanted me to pull over. It was a simple misunderstanding.
Not that he would have cared. He was obviously a very busy guy, and probably not in the best of moods.
I know I'm pathetically fragile sometimes. I guess I'm pretty lucky that this is the worst experience I've ever had with a cop.
But was it really necessary to take it out on me?
* * *
I don't have a thick skin at all, obviously. For several days, it troubled me to think of either of these experiences.
They reaffirmed what I already knew, something that's been proven to me time and time again: People simply don't give a rat's ass about good intentions.
I'm not surprised anymore when I'm confronted by the evidence. But it never fails to bother me.
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