Peter Suggests you Get Back in Line

Don’t you hate “entitled” people? You know, the ones who, for example, just have to push their way into the line, seeking to claim their “rightful place” at the head.

Loyal Reader, not only do I abhor these boors, but I challenge them at every turn. I always have, and I always will. You see, I believe that things go best if everyone exercises courtesy in their daily routine. I know, I sound like a dreamer at best and a naif at worst, but “hope springs eternal”. 

Peter’s Place of Working in Olden Times

Now due to both a lessening of pedestrian traffic because of pandemic restrictions and the glorious fact that I am retired and hence have much more control over my schedule, my encounters with these unfortunate people have been markedly reduced. However, it was not always that way, and this week I will recall several of these experiences which occurred at work.

The funny thing about my job as an Employment and Insurance Officer was that my contact with the public was paradoxical. At my desk, answering an enquiry about benefits paid or payable, I had to carefully consider my answer, as I needed to provide a response which would stand up to further scrutiny, albeit with the knowledge that revised information could change the facts of the case. 

On the other hand, walking through the office, I had to be ready and able to instantly verbally respond to situations ranging in scope from someone attempting to harass another person all the way to someone going into labour in the office. So it was necessary for me to “keep my powder dry”, come what may. The growing realization that I was good at being able to think quickly on my feet, combined with my growing knowledge base meant that I was proficient at “reading the room” and equipped me to handle pretty much any problem which cropped up when I was out on the floor and away from the comforts of my desk.

Sadly, my personal experience was that some unemployed people had self esteem issues, as they felt victimized and/or ridiculed by less sensitive members of society. As a result, some almost expected to be treated like second class citizens when they were at the Unemployment office. I decided that I would do my best to ensure that they never felt that way anytime they crossed paths with me. To me, this didn’t involve acting heroic, it just meant visually showing them that I was doing my best to demonstrate that they were being treated fairly. 

I have previously written about the time I had someone try to “butt in” to the head of a line of about 20 people.

The selfish individual ignored my direction to go to the end of the line and wait their turn, but in a moment of inspiration, I enlisted the opinion of the folks who were waiting as to whether or not he should receive “preferential treatment”, and they unanimously and publicly shamed him into assuming his proper place in line.

Well, another time we had a lot of people in the office looking for service. I had just called someone to interview, and was waiting for them to come up and join me. A woman got off the elevator, strolled into the office and breezed past the folks in line. She opened her mouth to ask me something, but I pointed at the line and told her to see the receptionist.

I heard my supervisor say that he wanted to see me in his office when I had finished my interview. So it was, Loyal Reader, that shortly afterwards he was telling me that I had mishandled the situation with that woman and had not given “good client service” to her by directing her to the receptionist rather than answering her question.

I replied that my focus was on the people who had spoken to the receptionist and taken a seat and were patiently waiting their turn to be seen. I went on to say that if the supervisor wanted a waiting room full of unhappy, unruly, people, then demonstrating blatant favouritism by dealing with someone clearly out of order was a great way to achieve that goal. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but my stand in favour of fairness when dealing with clients poisoned the relationship I had with that supervisor. From then on, I found myself enduring subtle differences in the treatment I received in the unit, at least while he was in charge.

Thankfully he couldn’t demote me or lay me off. I did wind up getting the “less glamorous” tasks, but that didn’t change my desire to treat waiting people with respect, as the last episode this week illustrates, as it occurred about a year later. 

One afternoon I was interviewing someone when I heard an unfamiliar voice ask me a question. I turned around and directed the person to the receptionist. Barely had I resumed my interview when I heard that same voice. I locked my computer screen and excused myself from the interview.

Walking into the hall, I saw him talking to a co worker of mine, who was starting to respond. I reminded him that I had directed him to see the receptionist. He snarked “I’m not talking to you!”

I drew myself up and said “Well I’m talking to YOU!” I took two steps and subconsciously they moved with me, which meant we were now in view of the rather lengthy line waiting to see reception. 

I never yell and rarely raise my voice, but I did speak very firmly and the combination of our movement and the discussion attracted the attention of those in line. Looking at him, I pointed at the end of the line and spoke calmly.

My brain sent the following message; “My co worker is an idiot who couldn’t find their butt with two hands with the lights off”. Thankfully, my at work Pension Protection Filter was working, so he heard “My co worker has been working so hard that they are unaware of our current situation. If they were, they would never consider showing disrespect for the people who are waiting their turn by taking someone out of order.” 

Silence descended upon us. The client then said “I need to use the washroom. Are you going to follow me there?” Cryptically, I replied that I was not going to reply, because I didn’t want to get suspended.

Then I smiled and told him to have a nice day. Glowering with impotent rage, he hied himself off. The co worker responsible for this put on a vacuous expression and blended into the wallpaper.

I returned to my office and simultaneously unlocked my computer, restarted the interview and mentally calculated how much beer I would buy on my way home. (Ain’t multitasking grand ?)

I think that those who witnessed that exchange appreciated my efforts on their behalf. They certainly “got their money’s worth”.

See you soon 


A confirmed Cat person, Peter dabbled with being a water boy, a paper boy and an altar boy before finally settling on a career with the Canadian federal government.  Once, in his youth, he ate a Dutch  oven full of mashed potatoes to win a 5 cent bet with his beloved sister Mary’s boyfriend. (Of course he was much younger and a nickel went a lot farther!))

He has retired to palatial “Chez Montreuil”, which he shares with his little buddy CoCo the Fashionable. He is blessed to have the beautiful Betty in his life. He is not only a plastic aircraft modeller, but a proud “rivet counter”. Military aviation and live music are among other interests of his, and he tries to get out to as many shows as he can. He will be here for your enlightenment whenever the stars align. Profile photo courtesy of Pat Blythe, caricature courtesy of Peter Mossman.

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