Popping The Bubble

Cliques. Tribes. The Matrix, even.

If we gaze at the masses long enough we realize it’s a ubiquitous scenario: People doing things, building things and marketing things while being surrounded by their own people. Bubble People. 

Bubble People are a fine people. Most of them are very nice and we have things in common with them. This is exactly why we spend so much time interacting with Bubble People. Bubble People got our backs. 

But what happens when we want to do, build or market something that could benefit from (or depend on) connecting with people from beyond The Bubble? Should we remain safely surrounded by Bubble People in a spherically-shaped fortress that cannot expand without breaking? Or do we deliberately destroy this bubbly barrier, leaving ourselves vulnerable, opening ourselves up to outside influence, ideas and opinions?

We must decide, because we cannot do both. 

Bubble People are typically easy. They don’t care that we haven’t showered or put pants on by 4 PM on a Wednesday. “Go for it!”, they cheer. “Best idea ever! Keep doing what you’re doing! Don’t ever change it! It’s perfect!”

You’re perfect.

But maybe — just maybe — perfect is something we were never meant to be. 

A bubble for your thoughts?

Dropping The Banhammer

 

Bob* was in his 60s. Southern accent. Tall and not a slight dude (from what I could ascertain upon our face-to-face meeting, as he was fully clothed).

Bob sat down in the reception area of my office, grasping the clipboarded intake form but not yet filling it out. His words came at me in rapid-fire progression.

“Now I get massages every week back home. Can I just use a towel to cover my midsection?” (I use bath towels instead of flat top sheets anyway, but the asking of this question raised a bright orange flag…or maybe it was pink. Fuchsia? Anyway, internal eye roll. Resume transmission.)

“OK, I booked a ninety minute service today, but I need at least thirty minutes of massage on my lower abdomen.”

 

SCCCRRRRREEEEEEEEEEECHHHH.

 

“I’m sorry Bob. I don’t do abdominal massage here.”

“Why not?! It’s the only way I can relax.”

“It’s my policy, no exceptions. I totally understand if you want to go elsewhere.” I ready myself to rise from my desk and escort him out of my office, but this guy is persistent. (Please forgive the bombardment of non sequiturs I’m about to lob your way, but this was my life last week.)

“I’ve been so stressed at work. I run six companies.” He pulls out his phone, points the screen in my direction and starts scrolling through photos of what I’m to assume are his crew and their work trucks.

“I got divorced in the ‘90s but I’ve been with my girlfriend for years. I’m leaving my business to her when I die.”

“I’m telling you this stuff so you’ll know some things about me.”

“I have two phones.”

“You really won’t do abdominal massage? How long have you been doing this?”

“You really won’t do abdominal massage? I don’t know what kind of massage you think I’m looking for.”

“You really won’t do abdominal massage? But I want to come in tomorrow and the next day too.”

“If you don’t do abdominal massage, what do you do?”

“When I was a little boy my mother would give me abdominal massages. It was the only way I could fall asleep.” (Mommy! An unexpected twist!)

“I’ll make it worth your time.”

“I’ll tip you really well.”

“One hundred dollars.”

“One time I was working with my crew in the woods and we got infested with ticks. I had to shave off all of my pubic hair but I didn’t realize I had to keep shaving it.” (This marked the turning point for me. Parasitic infections of the groin are not my area of expertise, and for good reason.)

“Bob, yeah, I’m not going to be able to help you.” I got up, keeping an eye on him, and made my way to the door. Still facing him I turned the knob and held the door ajar so he could exit. He did, but not before handing me his business card.

“In case you change your mind.”

“Bob, that’s not going to happen.”

Then I noticed that he had cleverly left his phone on my desk, so I exclaimed “Oh! Here’s your phone!” The last thing I needed was more alone time, here, with him.

I came to realize, partway through the convo, that Bob had called me several weeks prior from a different number (two phones!). During that phone call he wanted me to work “overtime” for “a really good tip” of “one hundred dollars” “if [my] husband didn’t mind”. Unfortunately for Bob, I was “booked”.

Adding to the absurdity was this: His persistence was completely unnecessary. In Vegas (as is true in many cities), you have so many happy ending options at your disposal you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a rub and tug or rash for cash. I mean, Craigslist will bring the lower abdominal massage to you at no extra charge! (The explanation I’m going with is that some folks find my combination of profuse anxiety sweating and groundbreaking bathroom humor utterly irresistible.)

As a rejected Bob walked out the door and down the hall, I was prouder of myself than I had been in a really long time. Like a lot of massage therapists (or humans, even), in the past I’ve worked on people I should’ve fired five minutes into meeting them. Messed-up, battle-scarred people looking for a metaphorical punching bag. People who just make you feel shitty.

And I’m over it.

Call Mommy and have her pick you up.

End transmission.

 

*Not his real name.

On Bullies, Adulthood, and Knowing Better

Hi. I’m Andrea, I’m thirty-six years old, and I was bullied the other day.

Six days a week I work out of my very own office. One day a week I work somewhere else, with other people. This is where it happened. Basically, without going into too much detail, a group of women who hang out in the break room every day decided they would enact a new appointment booking procedure whereby (despite my having seniority and being one of the original employees who opened the spa) I would be the last person to book because I deserved the least amount of appointments because I only work there one day per week. (Please keep in mind this has never been the booking policy here, and most likely never will be. Also, keep in mind that these women are all massage therapists, same as me, and do not have any authority over anything.)

Although I am not typically the target of this group, the ever-mired break room crew has been making the work sitch crappy for various coworkers of mine for years. Through the magic of mob mentality and safety in numbers, they take appointments from others and manipulate the book like a game of massage therapy Tetris, the ultimate goal being more appointments in less time so they can make their money and leave early. (We close at 7pm, and God forbid they book a 6pm.)

This crew talks about other service providers and staff members behind their backs constantly, and on rare special occasions, to their faces. It’s very Mean Girls, and I’ve never been OK with it. It’s negative, stressful and draining, and sometimes it makes what should be a great experience working at a beautiful facility with a highly skilled team a flat-out nightmare.

You may be wondering how your humble narrator reacted when blindsided by the mob on this fateful day. Sweet Jesus, it wasn’t pretty. As much as the break room crew was hoping to get their jabs in and head for the hills, I no doubt surprised them when I said we were “going to talk about this now”. And then the ugly cry of a million emotional shit storms emerged, I blubbered some colorful language (not directed at any people in particular, mind you), and basically said if they didn’t want me to work there anymore, they should just tell me. In fact, it went down very much like this emotional episode that I blogged about last month. Then I holed up in my massage room for the next forty-five minutes and sobbed like a wee babe.

You know what was the worst part of this whole debacle? I thought these people were my friends. Writing this down now, I realize how little sense that makes. “Why would I be friends with meanies?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that I see the good in people as much as I possibly can. I remember the times when they’ve been generous, or sympathetic, or funny, or supportive. But now that I see their toxicity and insecurity with new eyes, I question their motivation behind everything, ever. I do not like feeling this way.

In chatting with a bunch of self-employed massage therapist buddies since this went down, I’m struck by how much the avoidance of coworker drama has to do with their decisions to go into business for themselves. Some of them have tried working for/with others, and have experienced workplace bullying firsthand. Some would honestly like to give spa employment a try, but they’ve heard so many stories about workplace bullying and drama that they’re hesitant to go there (and maybe, sadly, rightly so). Spa drama is such a widespread problem there’s even a training course out there meant to address “dangerous drama levels” in the workplace – taught by massage therapist, continuing education provider and spa consultant Eric Stephenson. Imagine that!

Although this post is focused on a sad day in the life of this blogging massage therapist, I’ll grab the opportunity to point out some other irritating examples of bullying in adulthood that I’ve been noticing as of late:

  • wife bullies husband (put downs, guilt trips, extreme negativity, unnecessary conflict and drama)
  • boss bullies employees (abuse of power)
  • manager fears being bullied by bully employees
  • adult child bullies parent or parents (financial gain, manipulation)
  • crooked, shady townspeople bully other townspeople (control of information)
  • grandmother bullies the entire family (pick a reason)

And it makes me sick.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’ll freely admit I was an unhappy teenager. I was judge-y, scowl-y, and mean to a lot of people who didn’t deserve it. In adulthood I now understand that I was depressed, paralyzed by anxiety, painfully insecure, and trying to find my way out of a bad situation in the best (albeit misguided) way I knew how. Now I’m sorry for causing hurt, and I know I can never get those wasted days back. At some point I realized that dumping more negativity on top of my already low self-esteem was a stupid idea, so I evolved. I wonder: Do other meanies want to be happy? To stop hurting others? To evolve?

For my own good, I should probably just give up on trying to understand how other humans think. Instead of wasting time wondering “why did picking on that person ever seem like a fab idea to that other person?” I should be hitting the gym to get my obturator internus in competition form, and learning to play Tiny Tim’s Greatest Hits on the theremin. Yet I continually attempt to make sense of nonsensical human behavior. I guess I feel the need to be more knowledgeable today than I was yesterday, so I can convince myself that I’m making progress as I convulse around our little world in a manner not unlike a marionette suspended by woefully tangled strings.

I can’t promise you we won’t be blessed with a visit from a bullying internet troll, but I like to think of The Young Thumbs as a relatively safe place to discuss general goings on that don’t sit right with us. Do you have a story to share or some wisdom to dispense? Feel free to unleash it on the comments section below (because unlike humans, The Young Thumbs comments section does not have any feelings, and kinda likes the abuse). <3