User:Woozle/blog/2009-02-26 1949 Today's Moment of Shame

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Today's Moment of Shame
2009-02-26 1949

I have a small collection of "Moments of Shame" -- times when I did or said something which, in retrospect, I realized was really stupid or tasteless, and possibly hurtful to others, and which I will never ever be able to forget or stop wincing about.

One of these days I want to write about them all, as both confession and apology (should any of the affected happen to be reading), but since I just added a new one to my collection, I thought I should write about it now instead of waiting.

So. Josh's worker brings him home, and mentions that he (the worker) might need to take tomorrow (Friday) off because his mother just died. His mom had been sick for awhile, in and out of the hospital for several weeks at least, and she obviously mattered a great deal to him. I could tell he was barely keeping his shit together as he said this to me; I suspect he had only just heard the news himself.

So I said "Omigosh, I'm so sorry!" in my most sincere/concerned/sympathetic voice, and agreed that he should take Friday off.

This was shortly followed by one of those moments which more or less define the phrase "quit while you're ahead".

Something I should explain at this point. I'm always struggling to remember things that I need to tell people, especially Josh's workers -- especially things like clarifying schedules. As a result of this, I've gotten into a mental habit of always saying "see you X", where X is whatever day I'm expecting to see them next. Knowing that I have said this helps to relieve those nagging doubts, when a worker hasn't showed up right on schedule, that maybe I need to call (which I really hate) and double-check.

So then I blurt out something like "See you Monday...!, otherwise*..."

Right. So I'm picturing the way this could easily have come across: "Like, oh m'god, your mom died, I'm so sorry, take all the time off you need... but you'd better snap to it by Monday, mister, or you're history."

I don't know, maybe he didn't take it that way. Maybe I worry too much. Either way, it just shows that I shouldn't be doing this sort of work -- where I have to get along well with people on a level that must always remain very casual and distant. In office jobs, I can get to know people a little better -- so they know that if I should happen to say something which might be interpreted as me being a jerk, then that's not how I meant it... and I will know that they can feel free to tell me (or at least subtly convey by body language or whatever) if they do, for some reason, think I was being a jerk.

I may never know for sure how this guy interpreted what I said, or whether it bothered him... and I will always be imagining that underneath his surface civility, he's convinced I'm an authoritarian jerk who would insist he return to work the Monday after his mom died.

Unrealistic? Maybe... but prove it.

And all the bad feeling which this will generate in my head (justified or not) goes into the pile marked "I shouldn't be doing this. I'm not a people-person. Dammit, Jim, I'm a programmer, not a public-relations expert." All of which sounds like rationalization, thereby reinforcing the original idea that I'm a screw-up in this area.

*"Otherwise" was my brain's way of trying to say "unless you're still feeling too horrible, in which case call me if you can just so I'll know not to expect you". I mumbled it, though, so I don't know if he even heard it enough to not be able to understand what I meant.

Oh, and if I really was sincere, I'd send him a condolence card. If I knew his address, I'd probably try to actually do this, but then I'd probably forget about sending it until it was too late for there to be any sense in doing so.