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Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Little Exposure Never Hurts

Last Sunday I had an experience to which I didn't respond as promptly as I would have liked because of social anxiety.

I was doing the laundry at a place around a couple corners from my building. This is a place I started using a few weeks ago, when it had just opened. The location is much more convenient than where I'd been taking the laundry, at 7th and Girard, and also cost less. It's built into a little apartment building on Carlisle Street.

The first few times I used it I was quite satisfied. But last Sunday, I looked inside the only dryer that wasn't in use, and found there was water at the bottom. I got the manager's attention, saying, "This dryer isn't working right." Then I pointed and said, "See, there's water at the bottom."

The manager responded by going to get a rag or washcloth, coming back, and wiping the water up. Then he left the dryer just as it was.

From past experience, I'd always assumed that a dryer in this condition is not functioning properly. How can it get clothes dry if there's water at the bottom? So I was simply stunned that the manager was wiping the water up — in effect concealing that there was a problem — and not putting an "Out of order" sign on the machine. I didn't even think of asking him about it then, so conditioned I seem to be by fear of confrontation.

At the time I simply decided I wouldn't come back to this place, as the manager was evidently either incompetent or a crook — and a brazen one too, to have done what he did right in front of me. I started also thinking of putting signs up in the neighborhood to report on what had happened.

But a day or two later I told a couple of my co-workers about it, and one of them asked me, "Did you say anything?" I admitted that I hadn't, and he noted that the manager apparently had not been wrong in thinking he could be so brazen. This thought had crossed my mind, but hearing it from someone else made it impossible to simply push out of consciousness. (Social proof to the rescue!) So I resolved to go back there and ask the manager to explain his action.

This past week I've been lacking a home Internet connection, keeping me out late using a library computer. So I didn't get a chance to address this matter till today. When I went there, a different person was managing, who has hardly any English. He pointed to a sign across the street with his boss's number on it, so I called that. I asked the man who answered if he was the one managing last Sunday, and he confirmed this. But when I reminded him of what had happened, he simply denied it. He repeatedly asked "Last Sunday?" and I would again confirm that that's when it happened. But he just kept saying, "There was nothing wrong," and "No one said anything." So finally I said, "Well, either you have a bad memory or you're a liar. Either way, I'm not bringing my business here any more."

I wish he'd been there in person, so I could have confronted him face to face. Not that I relish that thought. Just the contrary. It would have been more anxious-making — and therefore a better "exposure" to help me learn I can handle my social anxiety. But that's the way the cookie crumbled. Better than nothing, anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great story because you capture exactly how I feel every day of my life.