Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crisis (Why am I so anal about my jobs?)

No, I'm not in a crisis, although I wish I was sleeping better.

The other day (Saturday at 17:23 to be more precise), the power failed across half the campus. I was in my room trying to finish an entry for the Shimer Blog about getting to see my childhood hero, Bill Nye the Science Guy. I was looking at my phone and then set it down when I noticed the music stopped, but quite quickly I noticed that it wasn't just my music: my computer was totally dead. I took a step outside and looked around, a few people were standing outside just as confused as I was. I joked around with my RA for a few seconds and then informed him that I was going to the first floor to check on the Community Desk Assistant (CDA, a person who sits at the front desk of the dorm building) and make sure Public Safety had been notified.

When I got downstairs, the CDA looked at me like he had a million questions he wanted to ask me, I've seen that look before. It's the look I get every time something goes wrong in my apartment complex. Last year the fifth floor had been flooded because someone intentionally clogged the drain and put both the hot and cold on full in the utility sink. I had been talking to the CDA, you know, trying to get to know the people who sit at those desks for hours on end when I heard water pouring down the elevator shaft- guess who made the phone calls and answered all the questions about the who, what, when, where, and how; yes, that was me.

I don't do it on purpose, per se. I enjoy seeing a problem get resolved smoothly, but I'm not out looking for problems. My own shift as a CDA sometimes requires me to respond to a crisis, usually in the form of an intoxicated student who drank way more than their body can handle and needs to be transported to the hospital. I hate having to be that guy that's always enforcing the rules, but I do enjoy helping people see the practical application of certain rules we have. I enjoy seeing the rules that were established long before I got here work in my favor. I like rules, I can't deny that, although I fear for the person who tries to enforce a rule I don't like. Anyways, crisis, it's funny that I use that word because what constitutes for a crisis in my job is very minimal in comparison to things I was trained to handle.

Yeah, I was trained to handle worse. I never really thought about it, but I was drafting an e-mail to my supervisor to explain why I was so upset when I went into the office yesterday and it suddenly struck me- I am not an average CDA. For the past two years I've looked back at my days of wanting to be in the military, of participating in Civil Air Patrol - Search and Rescue, and all that with great disdain. I didn't want to remember those days, they were (and often still are) are the subject of nightmares. Those days are the reason why I take a particular interest in psychological research done on abuses of power, the Stanton Prison experiment, and Milligram's authority experiment. Nevertheless, thanks to that stuff I've been trained to handle problems under pressure... It's true, I may not have the reflexes and discipline necessary to perform under the kind of pressure I was trained for, but I doubt I'll be rendering life-saving first aid to any injured pilots any time soon.

What I do really well (by comparison to my co-workers) is see a problem in progress and think. Most of my co-workers seem to see a problem and panic, which is pretty normal. Panic, in this situation, is caused by a conflict between the recognition of the problem and the emotional response to the shock of it happening. The fact is that CDA's are very accustomed to showing up for their shift and doing homework most of the time without much incident. When something like an intoxicated student trying to get past the front desk happens, the natural tendency is to panic and then reactively let the student pass by. It's uncomfortable to try to explain to an intoxicated person, or what usually happens it that you have to explain it to their sober friend who's carrying them, that you need to contact an RA and possibly Public Safety. You don't know if the drunk student is an angry or violent drunk, you'd probably prefer to not find out, but it's all a part of the job.

It's gets a bit more tricky when you're, say, a 3rd shift clerk at a gas station. At a gas station you are not obligated to handle drunk people, at least that's what they tell you when you sign up for the job, but drunk people come into gas stations all the time. They want some snacks, they want cigarettes, or they just need to use the ATM machine to get cash for the taxi fare. Drunks, as I have said elsewhere, are not people. They are subhuman primates that are incapable of higher cognitive and complex motor skills. They will not understand why you can't sell them cigarettes without an ID or why the ATM machine swallowed their credit card when they stood there for twenty minutes staring at the advertisements on the screen. My policy has been two-fold, as long as they aren't harassing me or my co-worker and they are not driving, then they can buy their stuff and leave. As soon as they break one or both of those rules, I'm going to come down on that shit like an anvil to a fly. I also refused to tolerate the high school kids dealing dope in the parking lot. We caught them on multiple occasions, but only once did we manage to get the police involved.

It's the perfect storm, between my previous experiences and my training, I am pretty much one of the biggest hard-asses you could get. I won't take offense if the majority of you don't want to work with me from here on out. Rest assured, there are jobs where I don't take this hard-assery out on other people, but none of you are likely to work that kind of job (just kidding!).