Insultingly funny

I will admit, I love Britain’s Got Talent. For years I’ve watched that show, and I remember watching Connie and opera singers and dog acts that just gave me such joy. These days I only watch clips of the auditions off of Youtube, and completely forgot that it was that time of year again. So, in procrastination mode, I watched a few clips from the first week of auditions only to see an eight year old boy do a ‘comic’ routine in which he used each of the judges along with Ant and Dec as the butt of his jokes.

There have already been a myriad of articles covering this, particularly that of his so-called ‘joke’ involving Amanda Holden in which he said, “Why were people so excited by that talking dog on Britain’s Got Talent? Amanda Holden’s been on it for years”. At first everyone was shocked, several people are being shown to cover their mouths as they laugh, and Holden slams the red buzzer. The routine continues however, everyone laughing and the boy goes through to the next round. Yet what struck me is how every single one of his ‘jokes’ relied on insults in order to be funny. Everyone screams ‘savage’ and how he ‘roasted’ them all, and seem to get serious joy from watching a little kid stroll on stage and, essentially, be rude and nasty to a bunch of celebrities. Now that I’m seeing more and more about this, particularly about Amanda as people switching between calling the joke ‘misogynistic’ to ‘well deserved’, it’s just getting to a point where I don’t understand why people find such delight in such nasty unkindness. Because that’s what it is, essentially. What does it teach, to laugh at someone insulting another? It reminds me of school corridors and bullies poking fun at the unpopular kids to a jeering crowd, using extravagant insults to get a laugh.

Why do we accept this kind of ‘humour’? If it were a 40 year old man delivering those jokes, there would be no doubt that he’d get four red buzzers and a swift exit, along with a slew of media claiming him a misogynist. But from an eight year old boy? It’s cute, it’s savage, it’s hilarious, you just don’t expect it! Forget the fact that his dad wrote those jokes, he’s just such a talented little soldier! It’s fine if the insults come from a little kid, because he doesn’t mean any harm, he’s just an innocent, take a chill pill for gods sake. That attitude, the one where people say those things, just shrugging and saying it doesn’t matter, is what gets me. Why should we just laugh it off? Sure, the ‘Your Mama’ jokes have always been popular, but they’re fun because, in reality, they’ve nothing to do with the other person. You could say ‘Your Mama’s so fat’ to someone whose mother is as skinny as a rake, because that’s not the point. You don’t go out to hurt that person or their feelings, you go to make a stupid, ridiculous joke. Directly insulting someone to gain some laughs should not be funny.

I find a good comparison is a previous contestant, Jack Caroll, who made it to the finals. His opening round poked jokes just at himself, making fun out of his being disabled. Although some weren’t entirely sold on the audition just being him insulting himself, it was more of an ’embracing your flaws’ moment. He was turning what is otherwise an awful situation into one of humour, one that got him to the final of a national talent competition and turning a disadvantage to an advantage. Insulting others, however? There’s a way to do it that’s amusing, and that something is called moderation.

There’s a difference between a taunt and a tease. A tease is done between friends and family, done in a way that you know it is not malicious because the recipient of the joke trusts them. There is a line, and your friends and family know where that line is drawn. There’s sensitivity in the art of teasing, so anyone claiming that he’s just teasing them is dead wrong on that count.

Maybe you think I’m overreacting. Maybe you’re thinking ‘it’s just a joke’ and you’re rolling your eyes. To that, I want to ask you something. What happens when people suddenly think it’s ok to call women dogs? What happens when people think it’s ok to make jokes about crossdressing just to get a few laughs? Sure, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m overreacting, but seeing a little boy insult others just to get some laughs struck a chord with me – a dissonant one, at that. As always, I want to live by the motto of ‘choose kindness’, because that’s the kind of world I want to live in. With the society we’re currently living in, the people in power who we’re currently trying to live through, I want to see more kindness. And yes, I want laughter too – but not at the expense of others. Because at the end of the day, we all deserve happiness and kindness, and any laughter caused out of insulting someone is not laughter I want to participate in.

Retail Rambles

There is nothing I can talk more about, or even complain about, than annoying customers at work. I’ve talked previously about how everyone should be forced to work in retail at some point, simply because it would hopefully eradicate the vast majority of rudeness customers seem to possess. Today, however, I want to just ramble about a few things in the day of a life of working in retail. Luckily I just work weekends, so I have a solid five days in between each couple of days where I have to deal with people that think that I’m there to serve them (which, technically, I am, but that in no means makes them my superior).

I’ve worked in a bookshop for almost a year and a half now, and I worked as a hostess and in a pub before this. Without doubt working at the bookshop is by far my favourite, and if there were only nice customers I’d have so little to complain about that I’d probably have to shut down this blog. However, there are always awful customers – people who don’t seem to realise that they will be the subject of conversation in the staff room, and every time they come back we will warn each other and most likely not be that helpful. It gets even better if the customer thinks that they’re so in the right, that they’ll demand to talk to a ‘manager’, thinking that we’ll get a telling off, when actually we’ll get our manager who will be more concerned about whether we, the employees, are alright. I had one incident where a customer gave me their surname in order for me to find a book they had ordered in, and when I couldn’t find it they said “Are you really that incompetent?”. It turned out that they had a combined surname, something like Dean-Smith, so of course it was shelved under ‘D’ and not ‘S’, as they had told me their surname was Smith. Overhearing, my manager grew so angry that, once I had found this lady’s books, he took over the transaction and told her off, not letting someone treat me badly.

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Some customers also have this strange thought that they could do my job so much better, that they are above me in intelligence as well as status. (Seriously, whoever came up with ‘the customer is always right’ clearly never worked a day in retail in their life). I had a man last Sunday knock over a huge Christmas display of all the packs of Christmas cards. I went over to see what had happened, only to see this chap just standing there among the carnage. Sighing, I bent down and started to pick everything up, and he didn’t speak until I was literally on my knees trying to gather everything around his feet (he didn’t move out of the way or even try to help). Instead of apologising, he said “Well what do you expect to happen when you display them like that?”. I then went to put everything back the way it was, to which he started telling me how I should stack them – a way in which meant you couldn’t actually see the product. I told him this, and the fact that we hadn’t had anyone have any problems with it so far, to which he continued to tell me how the proper way to do it was. I’ve had someone tell me that I rolled wrapping paper the wrong way, only to have the person buying said paper tell me that they didn’t care. This lady then told me ‘she was only trying to help’, which is so insulting I don’t even want to get into it. Never, I repeat never should you tell someone who is working how to do something if you are the customer. Just let them get on with it, and if they are doing a certain job wrong it’s down to their managers or co-workers to point it out, not you.

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It’s gotten to a point where I can sense exactly what a customer is going to complain about. An easy one is on a Sunday, where the Sunday Trading Hours law means that we can only sell for 6 hours – and we state very clearly that we open at 12 for half an hour browsing time, then start selling at 12.30. We even have signs on the door and every single till point, but still you will have customers get enraged at you -even when you say ‘it’s the law, I can’t sell it’. Responses to this have included: “stop being stupid you little girl and get on the till”, “that’s just ridiculous I’m just buying ___”, and more. A lot of people have this habit of mumbling insults and profanities, but mumbling not in a ‘to-self’ way, but loud enough that you can hear every single thing. Why people think it’s ok to be rude to an employee at a shop in this way I’ll never know.

A favourite phrase of mine that customers use is ‘can you check in the back’. Honestly, it’s just fantastic and you get to just play along. Customers think ‘the back’ is this huge, cavernous space filled with all the products you have out in display, whereas really it’s a small cupboard in which we have some Christmas stock and mothers/fathers day, valentines, and easter cards. Still, you say “of course I’ll go check in the back” and you toddle off into the cupboard and have a bit of a sit down for a couple of minutes.

But really, the reason for this ranting is not just to get it off my chest. It’s because it’s gotten to the point where I expect rudeness, and any customers who are actually nice are very unexpected surprises. We have to take on this mindset of pre-empting how a conversation can go and what a customer will complain about, going through various scenarios and trying to figure out what phrases to use which will cause the least amount of problems. For example I only say ‘yes, we should have that in stock’ rather than say how many we have in stock, because more often than not if we only find 2 out of 3 copies, the customer will demand to see the other one and complain incessantly that we can’t find it.

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But let’s end on a nice note. There are several reasons why I love my job – the copious amount of books, the odd broken chocolate item I get to eat, the cafe where I can get free tea and hot chocolate – but the thing that makes me love my job, the reason why I feel sad whenever I think of the day I’ll finally leave my job, are the people I work with. Having great work colleagues makes any job ten times better, from having someone positive to motivate you, to having someone you can rant with about customers. Nothing is better than going to work and having your colleagues ask you about your week and certain events you mentioned in passing a month ago, or having someone leave you a note so when you start your shift you have a ridiculous drawing of a reindeer wishing you good luck.

So, yes, a lot of customers can be arseholes, and there are very few customers who are kind and respectful to you. But what makes it all worthwhile are the people you meet and befriend at work, who are there ready to support you and keep your spirits high – especially in the Christmas season, where jolly goes out the window and enraged unprepared shoppers storm in looking for a book ‘with a blue cover’.

 

It’s a Sad World

Politics makes me sad. The news makes me sad. The world makes me sad.

Most days I want to just unplug the tv, turn off my phone, and just read a book, pretending that everything is ok. It seems every time I look at the news there’s been another rape, another terrorist attack, another earthquake, another racist attack, another misogynistic arsehole, another injustice, another another another. I’ve only lived 20 years and I’ve had enough with it all.

I created a series on here called ‘On Being Happy’, in an attempt to have an outlet for something positive. If the news doesn’t cover anything good in the world, I might as well create a source for something happy. Yes, the world is better than it used to be, but it’s still not great. What with Brexit this year and now Trump, it feels like we’ve gone backwards. How have campaigns that are fuelled by hate come so far? Why are people with racist, homophobic, and sexist tendencies been given the opportunity to do so much damage? Why are so many people blind to the truth? Brexit was fuelled by the hate for migrants, when really we shouldn’t be hating the people fleeing their homes but those who are the cause for them to flee in fear. Trump took this to a new level. It’s things like this that give people justification for hate crime, as we’ve seen with the rise of racist attacks. Anyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male has cause for concern and real fear.

I hate that when I hear about another bombing or tsunami or mass death that I feel almost numb to it, simply because we’ve had so many in the past months and year. If you try to really dedicate your energy and emotions to them all, there’s just no end to the torment – and I’m not even a victim of these things. Sure, if we’re using the examples previously raised, I’m affected by Brexit as I wanted to stay in the EU, but at the end of the day I’m a white female who only has to worry about sexist attacks – and the amount that I deal with pale in comparison to a woman who is black, or a man who isn’t a Christian, or someone who isn’t heterosexual. How have we allowed a time where so many people live in constant fear and grief, scared to leave their homes because it’s highly likely they could be targeted.

There’s not much I can do to help, but one thing I can do very easily is speak out. This blog has been my platform for my thoughts and feelings and musings for years now, and it would be wrong to pretend that everything is fine, because it isn’t. Who would I be, if I just sat back and pretended it wasn’t happening? What would that make me, if I did turn off my tv, ignore the notifications on my phone, and act that the world isn’t going downhill – just because I can.

It would make me into the one of the many people who sit back and do nothing. Who vote out of fear and prejudice. Who claim not to be racist, but don’t see racism as a deal breaker. Who dislike campaigns such as ‘Black lives matter’, because they’re white and aren’t ‘included’ – who instead of supporting their friends and community, they choose to hate it and see it as an attack to themselves. Who can’t look past their own worries, and try to help others.

So, this is me trying to do something – and it won’t end here. This is me using a platform I have to voice something that not everyone listens to. Yes, there’s not much I can do to change the way the world is, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing I can do.

One thing remains true: although there is sadness and dejection, there is always hope and kindness. Those don’t go away. Not everyone has got what they wanted this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up and accept this. We can go on fighting, campaigning, and talking to one another, but not fuelled by hate. I choose kindness.