Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Still a Barman . . .

SO . . .

I walked into the bar last Friday with every intention of it being for the last time. I slipped into my way-too-small uniform shirt (it doesn't even button - I have to wear a black T shirt underneath and turn the official garb into a vest) and found Dickface (see below) in his office.

I said hello and he didn't move a muscle apart from the few he was already using to type up an email. So I reiterated my greetings, "Hi Dickface, how are you."

"Okay, mate. Okay," he finally replied without looking up.

To make a long story short, I told Dickface that, although he may not realize it, he is a dickface because he embarrassed me in front of customers. He tried to act like I couldn't take a joke. I corrected him, pointing out that I can take plenty of jokes (a steady stream of accusations of homosexuality courtesy of one uncle comes to mind) but, as in the case of my uncle, it is crucial that you establish some kind of relationship with me before you start shooting your mouth off, especially in front of other people. Dickface is a dickface because he didn't speak to me at all for 3 months, and then suddenly felt like he could have his comedic way with me when it suited him.

He seemed to be pretty shell shocked, which reminded me of the last time this kind of thing happened to me here in NZ, that is, the last time I spoke honestly with a work superior. I somewhat (errr, VERY) directly told a previous manager at the telephone company (see first post of this blog) that I didn't understand what she wanted me to do and was getting tired of her passive aggressive bullshit. From that day forward, she was nothing but super nice to me, going out of her way to offer me doughnuts (doughnuts : office :: cigarettes: prison) or ask me what I thought about various conundrums, such as how to deal with rude customers or how to respond to the company plan to move the entire team to the Philippines. It was weird. One minute, I was persona non grata, the next I was a valued member of the inner circle, getting loads of face time with the boss. And the only difference was that I made a bit of a fuss.

And so it was with Dickface. He claimed that he had never been accused of such rudeness ever before, but it was obvious that he knew what I was talking about. "Mate, sometimes I get here at 8 in the morning, and I guess I just don't always think to say hello to the people here." Besides the fact I too go to work at 8 in the morning, albeit for a different job, I did mention that it is certainly no excuse for being a dickface. It ain't that hard to say hello, or to just smile.

So for the rest of last Friday's bar shift, Dickface talked to me about future opportunities, said I could probably do some other work at other places, and said that he wanted to include me in some brainstorming sessions about where to take the bar.

I certainly couldn't quit at that point. I even hung out with some of the regulars after my shift ended.

And it turns out one of the regulars is a builder, and knows all about redoing bathrooms. And I've been house hunting. The builder says he can sort me out with bathrooms, kitchens, etc . . . If he can't do the job, he knows the people who can.

So yes, the unsolicited advice I got from Julia after the last post was spot on. Christchurch is a small town - it's about time I start figuring out how to use that to my advantage.

But I'm still kind of stuck. Not sure if the Kiwis like this American directness or not. Ask them, and most Kiwis say they don't like it. But whenever I have actually done it - whenever I have taken the gloves off and simply told people exactly how I felt and what I wanted, the response has been generally positive.

I suppose it's all part of the work in progress that is settling in on this small island far from everywhere else. We'll see where it goes . . . .


  1. Hey, I'm quickly revealing myself to be the biggest fan of your blog! Or else someone with way too much time on her hands. Anyway, I've been struggling with the reconciling of our blunt American way of telling it how it is for YEARS now. Compared to the Kiwis' method of speaking volumes with just one grunt, or the Poms' diplomatic subtlety, well, it sure can piss people off (I mean that in the American sense, of course). Luckily, now that Obama is in office, there seems to be less anti-American sentiment, so our blunt, earnest ways don't seem to be quite so bothersome. Or maybe I've developed a thicker skin. I do think that directness can be effective, as Kiwis often act like sheep. They're afraid of being tall poppies and getting chopped down, so no one asserts themselves. Good on ya mate, for finding your way through a cultural quagmire.

  2. I think you are right about the Obama effect - it blows me away that the domestic politics of a country I haven't lived in for almost 10 years could effect how people treat me. But it does, or at least seems to.

    But yes, you are certainly right. No one asserts themselves. So perhaps I might as well . . . at least every now and then.