Being patronized. I hate it. Thankfully it doesn’t happen all that often, which is a relief for everyone, believe me. Then it goes and happens twice in one day, within hours of each other.
Whilst volunteering I get told, by a manager who has only just met me, that I have a good telephone manner. This was in a tone you would use when congratulating a dog for using the word ‘alternative’ correctly. A tone of total incredulity and wonder. Not an hour later I am refused flea treatment for the cats because I said I would overdose them. I thought I was making a joke, the young man thought I was publishing my manifesto. His tone was pompous and condescending – as though talking to a halfwit who is only allowed out on Sundays.
On both occasions I felt the same sense of insult and injury. How dare you! As a volunteer I simply smiled and said ‘thank you’ – with difficulty through my gritted teeth. In the store I shrugged my shoulders and walked out. The latter was far more satisfying and I might try it in other settings. Shrug and walk away.
The sensation is not new. My theory is that some people mistake my manner – be it humour, humility or simple politeness – for something else. They seem to see it as an opportunity to tell me something, explain something, clarify something. Presumably on the basis that they consider themselves ‘better’ than me in every way. Poor fools.
I am not sure if it has got worse as I get older, and greyer, and fatter. I know I have always been sensitive to it but perhaps when I was a fully functioning adult, in the real world, doing a proper job, it seems I managed to hold my own. Now that I am some silly biddy who volunteers and shops in pet stores for cat things I am fair game.
The manager in the office has no idea who I am, what I’ve done or what I want to do. She has, I suppose, read many management handbooks and attended the staff development courses on motivating people. Unfortunately she seemed to lack the subtlety to quite pull if off so ends up sounding insincere and patronizing.
The assistant in the pet store was so bound up in the seriousness of the chemicals involved in killing fleas he failed to recognise a cynical joke, made in response to questions about the weight of my cats. Was it my age, my grey hair, my poncho? Perhaps he couldn’t see past all the tell-tales signs of ‘mad old lady’ to recognise I was pulling his leg. And anyway, who knows the weight of cats? They are all simply cuddly.
I later learnt it was World Kindness Day. And I laughed at the timing. What a way to celebrate and participate.