It seem petty to have pet peeves when this country and those all over the globe are fighting the coronavirus. Still, this crisis, while it can draw out the best in us, it can also draw out the worst. That happened to me yesterday.
I was talking with a customer service representative employed by the company I have a long term care policy. After asking for a CSR whose native language was English two times and not getting one, third time proved to be the charm.
The CSR’s first words were, “How are you today?” I have, like many others, heard these words many times, and I am always annoyed, though I know the CSR has to follow her boss’ wishes. The day had already presented problems, and I didn’t want another one.
I told the CSR that I knew she had to answer this question because she was told to, but I wished her supervisor would realize what an invasion of privacy such a question is.
“I might just have been told I have a terminal illness,” I said. “Or a close friend might just have died. At any rate, how I am today isn’t the business of a total stranger.” We finished the call, and I hung up, thinking how rude I had been. Then I wondered if it is rude to try to prevent a total stranger from acting like someone trying to become a friend.
I grew up in a time and place in which friendships were built slowly, as the two people involved came to know each other better, and discover if they had enough in common to develop a friendship. Most people realized that while it is easy to rush into a close relationship, it is difficult to back out, and went step by step.
People used first names only if the person addressed was on the same level as they were. Otherwise, last names prefaced with the proper address were used, until the older or more prominent person suggested using first names.
At what was Southwestern Louisiana Institute then and is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, professors addressed their students formally, which helped maintain an appropriate distance between teacher and the class.
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