And don’t call me ‘sir’
In my previous life as an AV Guy, I used to do some work at the more upscale hotels in Aspen. For the most part I enjoyed this part of the job, as I’m a master at scamming free snacks, and the nice hotels always have the best coffee.
But there was one thing that always bothered me – people would call me “sir.”
“Not a problem, sir,” they’d say. “Yes, sir. No, sir. Certainly, sir. You’re absolutely correct, sir.”
Sometimes, while working in these places, I’d get called “Sir” so often you’d think I was wearing a suit of armor and carrying a lance. And, true, it was a vast improvement over when I first started the job, when people always called me “M’am.”
The worst part about it is that these people – my peers – were calling me this because they were FORCED to. It was kinda creepy and sinister.
I remember one time in particular that I was working at a swanky Aspen hotel, and I needed to get some gear from the back storage closet. So I asked the guy at the front desk for the key.
“Certainly, sir,” he replied. “Which storage closet do you need opened, sir? I’ll have the bellman come and open it for you.”
“No, that’s fine. I just need the key to the east storage and I’ll do it myself. And quit calling me ‘sir,’ for God’s sake.”
“Certainly, sir. And here’s the key you requested, sir.”
“Look …” I moved in close to him and whispered. “I’m just working here, just like you. I’m a local, just like you. You know, I’m one of ‘us’ … so seriously, can’t we drop the ‘sir’ bit? Can’t you call me ‘bro’ or ‘dude’? Even ‘dawg’ would be better than sir, though only slightly.”
When I said the word “dude,” a look of repressed fear filled his lifeless eyes, and I realized for the first time that it wasn’t his fault.
He’d been brainwashed. I could only imagine what horrible, Clockwork Orange-like deprogramming this poor guy must have been subjected to make sure he never called anyone “dude” at work. He’d no doubt been pumped full of nauseating chemicals, his eyes propped open with toothpicks, and forced to watch “The Big Lebowski” while electric shocks were administered to his nethers.
“You’d like to call me ‘dude,’ wouldn’t you?”
He nodded his head weakly.
“But you aren’t allowed to, are you?”
He looked away. He was sweating, or “perspiring,” as he was probably trained to say. His lips formed the first “d” in “dude,” but he couldn’t quite force it out.
Poor sap. His eyes were bloodshot, and I could see the scabs where the toothpicks had been.
“I’m with ya, dude,” I whispered. “I know what you’ve been through, and I’m not gonna leave until we work this out. Now, just take a few deep breaths and say it … c’mon … say it with me … duuude.”
“That’s good. Now again … duuuude. Just relax and let it happen.”
His body went limp and he collapsed behind the counter. He was close, but obviously the memories of the electro-shock treatments were too much for him. He had barely hit the floor when another employee rushed over.
“Something I can help you with, sir?” he asked me.
“Uh … no thanks. Just hangin’ out.”
“Well, if there’s anything we can help you with, sir, just let us know.”
“You’re welcome,” he said.
I had obviously lost this battle, so what the heck?
“You’re welcome WHAT?!” I said.
“I mean, you’re welcome … sir.”
Next time: I try to get a St. Regis bellman to say “whatever” instead of “certainly.”)
Read more about Barry Smith on his blog, barrysmith.wordpress.com.