Saturday, September 29, 2018

dumb fucks

One of my major character flaws is that I don't suffer fools gladly, and that applies equally to the out-and-out stupid as well as those utterly lacking in common sense. Most of these folks are gentle-hearted creatures who undoubtedly mean well, but they annoy the living fuck out of me whenever they mess up seemingly simple tasks. I doubt I'm alone in this; if I were, then the battle cry "You had ONE job!" wouldn't be so popular.

A month or so ago, the custodians came into our office and threw away the garbage, but they also took away all the utensils I had spent so much money on: my 24 forks, my 25 knives, my 25 spoons, and my 25 pairs of metal chopsticks. I had spent a lot of time and money building up a restaurant-grade supply to be used and reused over the coming months and years as I did my office-wide luncheons, so naturally, I was a mixture of flabbergasted and furious. I ended up getting back everything except the damn knives when I wrote a large sign in Korean asking for everything back. The knives were gone forever, alas; that was about 25 dollars down the drain. I should've demanded my money back, but I was trying to do the compassionate thing. When the cringing custodian who had thrown everything away came back into the office with three-quarters of my utensils in hand, I told him several things, including, "If you don't know whether to throw something away, then don't throw it away." His lame justification for having thrown everything away in the first place: "It looked like something to throw away." When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and when you're trained to chuck garbage, everything looks like garbage, I guess.

My "when in doubt" advice apparently didn't sink in. Yesterday, I left out a Korean roll cake on a long plastic plate. I had wrapped the roll cake in a blue plastic garbage bag and had set a new, sharp steak knife on top of the bag to signify, "This may look like a garbage bag, but the new knife on top ought to warn you away from pitching it." The new knife wasn't enough of a warning, alas: when I came into the office today for a long Saturday session (I'll be here on Sunday, too), I found the cake, the plate, the bag, and the knife all gone—thrown away yet again. My Korean coworker meekly suggested that I write a "Don't throw away!" sign, and I asked her if she thought the custodians were so stupid that I needed to write signs every time I left something out. She's a timid twenty-something facing a 275-pound, 49-year-old American, so she held her peace and shrank into her chair. I'm not angry at her, but I'm upset by the idea that all this is somehow my fault because I need to take other people's stupidity into account. But that may be exactly what I have to do: stupid people are often reliably stupid, i.e., you can trust that they'll make the same mistakes over and over again. So maybe it is on me to leave a big fucking sign every time I leave out something that might even vaguely look like garbage.

Koreans who end up working as custodians and garbage collectors are at the low end of the intelligence/education hierarchy in this country. Still, the work they do is absolutely necessary for society to keep going, and to that extent, I really ought to be thankful. That said, it's goddamn frustrating when you tell someone not to throw away an item if he's in doubt as to whether it's garbage, and for him to throw the item away, anyway. Christ.

Yeah... maybe I'm the dumb fuck, here.

UPDATE: yup—I'm the dumb fuck. I ranted at the custodian this evening when I saw him; he insisted he had no idea where the plate, knife, and cake might have gone. After he left, I poked around the other work stations and got a clue when I saw a not-quite-empty plate with a tiny fragment of roll cake on it. That led me to the fridge, et voilà: all the missing items had been placed in the goddamn fridge, probably by a native-speaker English teacher who had stayed later than I had. Mystery solved. I sought out the custodian, because we had both barked at each other about this latest problem, and bowed while apologizing. After my threats to check out the CCTV footage, an apology was the least I could offer. While I don't think blaming the custodian was an irrational thing to do, given what had happened last time, I should have poked around first before pointing fingers. But as for the guy's level of smarts: before my apology, he tried to gather up some scraps of authority by preaching to me about how we office workers need to make their job easier by not leaving non-garbage items next to the trash can. This was, once again, his dumb attempt at justifying why he had thrown away all my other utensils, and I wasn't having it. I wasn't in any mood to be blamed for something that fucking stupid. I made the Jackie-Chan-meme gesture and asked him, a second time, how in the world he could have thought that perfectly new utensils needed to be thrown away. I got no good answer from him—just a noncommittal grunt. I then growled that I would label everything from now on since people obviously couldn't tell the difference between garbage and non-garbage. So, yeah, feelings were raw before I sought the guy out and apologized to him for my mistake this time. But I'm still sore about losing $25 worth of silverware.

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