Friday, 13 April 2012

Can You Believe This MindSet?

This story originates from my first three years in the working world. I was working in a small town store that sold stereos, television sets, pianos, organs, and appliances. I had been married quite recently and could not afford to do much after work. The staff was quite small, only five people on the upstairs floor and two in the service shop downstairs. The service people seldom interacted with staff socially. The sales staff consisted of myself, my boss, and an experienced sales lady. The other two staff were primarily bookkeepers, but they were involved in taking cash as well as customer credit applications. One of the bookkeepers was in her 70's. She was an aged spinster and the boss kept her employed for sentimental reasons. She had been with the store for 35 years after all. The other bookkeeper was at the other end of the age spectrum. She was barely twenty, and this was her first full time gig since leaving school. (She did a lot of the routine work under the direction of the more senior staff member. She did most of the routine work under the direction of the older lady. The senior person dealt with paying invoices from our wholesalers, and in payment delinquencies from customers. She did most of the details of bookkeeping under the day to day direction of the older lady. To say there was friction between them was an understatement, but that might be another story to tell some day.

The store was closed Sundays back then, so it was tradition every Monday morning to get together and regale each other with what we did on the weekend.  Since I was recently married and cash was tight, my wife and I mostly just hung out with friends. I was told the old lady spent most of her Saturday night and Sunday after church drinking scotch. The other person in sales was a woman in her 50's who spent her weekends with grown children and grandchildren on family activities. The boss never come in until 10:00 AM which is why we were able to shoot the breeze every Monday from 9:00 till 9:30 or so.

Now Cathy, the junior accounting clerk, was in a class of her own. She spent nearly every weekend frequenting the local pubs with her girlfriends. They would move from club to club in a pack looking for fun. Ultimately, they were all looking for the man of their dreams to marry. Because all of the rest of us could only talk about the same stuff we talked about last week, invariably, the conversation on Monday tended to center on Cathy's latest exploits. She had a way of dramatizing the mundane, so if nothing else, her stories were more interesting than – 'I cooked dinner for my family'. She was not ugly, but not exactly the prettiest girl in the world either, so her trials and vexations were many. But from my perspective, her biggest problem was her attitude. This is best typified by the following story.

One particular Monday, Cathy was talking about her Saturday night. She had several single friends that she went around with on her weekly jaunts. She complained that she never got to dance a single dance on Saturday night, and that the whole evening was a bust. She mentioned that this guy had come up to their table just as they got there, and had asked one of her friends to dance and was turned down. He then proceeded to ask each of the other girls, who all turned him down. Over the next hour, she had watched him ask other girls in the club, who all turned him down, so he left. She then laughed at how stupid he was to be so persistent.  I was curious why she thought it was stupid so I asked her.

She said that once one girl at her table had turned him down, if any of them would have said yes, they would have looked like they were picking up the leavings of the first girl who turned him down. Thus losing face I guess. Not sure if I fully understood I asked her to tell me more.  She said that after being turned down by all the women at our table, he then proceeded to ask other women at other tables, and they of course had to turn him down too. When I asked why, she said that they would have been worried about looking needy by picking up someone that someone else had turned down.

In an effort to truly understand what to me was a twisted point of view, I asked her some more questions. I asked her what was wrong with him. Did he look like an ape or something? She said that he was actually quite good looking, and she had been hoping for weeks that he would ask her to dance. So I asked if she knew the reason the first girl had turned him down for if he was such a catch. She said that they had just gotten there, and that that she did not feel like dancing yet. So I asked Cathy if the guy would have asked her first, would she have danced with him. She said of course she would have.  I was struggling now to hold in the laughter as she continued to amaze me with the twists and turns of her strange reasoning.

At this juncture, I summarized my understanding to make sure I had not missed anything. I said, you knew that your friend had turned him down not because she was not interested, but because she was tired. She agreed with that. But he did ask you and you turned him down, and then had a crappy Saturday night because nobody else asked you to dance. She said yes, that's just the way it goes sometimes.

By now, I was feeling that I should show her the errors of her ways, so I asked a few more questions. I asked her to think like a guy for a bit and tell me which of the people she would have approached first if she was a guy. She said she would have asked the girl that he asked first because she was cuter. But then she proceeded to say that the cuter girl did not have as good a personality as she did. So I asked her if she had ever had any sort of discussion with the guy before, and she said she had not. So I asked her how was he ever to know that she had a better personality if she did not talk to him when she had the opportunity. She looked at me like I was mentally deficient or something. She said, “I already told you that I couldn't! Weren't you listening”? I gave up at that point.

A couple of weeks later, I noticed that Cathy was not her usual perky self. I talked to her a bit and got her to open up as to what her problem was. She said that the guy that she had turned down to dance had shown up with a new girlfriend, and said the the girl was not even pretty. I said, too bad you messed up your chance. Once again, she looked at me like I was some neanderthal from the ice age. “I told you I could not say yes to him. How many times do I have to repeat myself!”, she said.  About a year later, Cathy was moping around the office for a couple of months. One of her girlfriends told me that they guy she really liked had married that girl. She never had actually talked to the guy.

I did not stay at that store much longer. I found a much better paying job with a more stable future elsewhere in the city. I stayed on long enough to train my replacement, and would run into him from time to time. He stayed on a decade before leaving as well. When he left, Cathy was still there, still single, and still wandering the bars looking for Mr. Goodbar.

I guess she never changed!

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