You know what really grinds my gears?

When people tell you to calm down when you’re not even remotely upset. Even worse is when the person saying this is easily the least certified person to be telling anyone to relax. Does this happen to anyone else, or is it just me?

(Note: There is slightly more profanity than usual in this post, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.)

One time this happened and I simply found it funny, because I mean come on, all I did was ask the fry person at my job how long it was going to be on the next batch of fries. A customer wanted her fries with no salt, and in order to do that you had to make a whole new batch, and she wanted to know how long that would take. So I walked over to the girl currently in charge the fry station and said, “hey, how long on that next batch?”

“20 seconds!” she said, as if I’d been pestering her about it all day. “Relax.”

Relax.

Relax.

Relax.

The word repeated in my head over and over again in that same exasperated tone. I held back my first instinct, which was to make a passive aggressive comment at her expense.

(This may be a surprise to y’all, but I’m actually a very bitchy person. I manage to hide it well, though, so only close friends and family members know about it. I prefer the term “snarky” instead of bitchy, though I think the latter’s more accurate. You can read more about my past snarkiness and the various unnecessary conflicts its caused in my upcoming series: Tragic Stories from Matt’s Childhood.)

Instead of potentially causing more conflict, I just pretended she had said it nicely instead. “It’ll be done in about twenty seconds, good sir,” or something like that.

“Okay,” I said, “Can you make a medium fry, no salt, please?” And that was the end of that.

In that instance, it didn’t bother me, because the girl was relatively new and she’d had to deal with the general manager yelling at her for the past five hours, and I’ve been in that situation many times before. I know that general managers are supposed to be all tough and strict and whatnot, but sometimes I feel like she crosses the line and she just gets nasty, acting more like a playground bully than someone who’s supposed to act professional. This was one of those days. She was yelling at the fry girl like she was some sort of animal that had managed to sneak its way inside the store, and she was slowly pushing said girl closer and closer to a nervous breakdown.

So yeah, I didn’t hold that moment against her.

But that’s not the only time someone has told me to relax, to calm down, or some other variation of the term. Just the other day at work, someone told me to calm down, and that one moment’s been bugging me ever since.

The story:

I was dealing with an obnoxious customer. He was an old person, but he wasn’t one of those cool old people with mad beat-boxing skills. Nope, he was an obnoxious, thick-headed man who I quickly wanted to punch in the face.

“Give me a happy meal,” he said, “and a chicken sandwich.”

There are four things wrong with this:

  1. No please or thank-you. Just “Give me.”
  2. There are five different types of happy meals.
  3. Happy meals come with a choice of drinks, a choice of apple slices or gogurt, and a choice of toy. He neglected all of this.
  4. There are multiple chicken sandwiches on the menu.

All of this is somewhat understandable, though, because for all I know this man had never been to a McDonalds before and therefore had no way of knowing this. Besides by, you know, actually looking at the menu. And not to brag or anything, but I handled this order like a pro. I was informative, I was polite, I was like Employee of the Month material, right then and there. But some people are just all around awful, and nothing you do can change that.

As I went over the order, the customer was growing meaner by the minute. He acted like I was somehow supposed to know he wanted apple slices with his meal. But things were still mostly civil until I got to fixing problem #4: the chicken sandwich.

“So for the chicken sandwich, did you mean you want the McChicken off the dollar menu, the crispy chicken deluxe, or grilled artisan?”

“Just give me the chicken sandwich.”

“We have three different chicken sandwiches, sir.”

He rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath, as if I was the one making this all so much more difficult than it had to be. “Just get me one of those!”

“Okay,” I said. I was starting to wonder if getting a job at a McDonald’s was the right decision. “The McChicken just has lettuce, mayo, and chicken on it. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” he said. “Whatever.”

So just to be sure I read the order over back to him, (he rolled his eyes and clearly wasn’t paying attention) and then instead of handing me the money he just put a twenty dollar bill on the counter, on the side of the register where I couldn’t see it. I never even saw him put the money down.

So I just sort of looked at him for a while, expectantly, not really what sure what to say because I felt like he was about to explode at any minute. Finally he gave a frustrated gesture to the money, sitting quietly out of my view. It was a gesture that said, “the money’s right here, you fucking idiot.”  So I took it, once again repressing the urge to make a comment.

I got the food for him as fast as humanly possible, because honestly I just wanted him out of my sight. When I got it to him he looked through the bag, picked up the McChicken and immediately looked at me with this hateful expression. “I didn’t order this.”

I felt one of my eyes start twitching at this point. “You said you wanted the chicken sandwich?”

“Yeah,” he said. I don’t how he managed to say ‘yeah’ in such an obnoxious way, but he did it, alright. “I wanted the big sandwich, in the box.”

“This one?” I said, pointing to the crispy deluxe on the menu, which I had suggested to him earlier.

“Yeah,” he said. Same tone as before.

“So you did want the crispy deluxe? With the lettuce, tomato and mayo on it?”

“Yes,” he said, and then followed it up something that made my blood boil. He told me to “calm down.”

Just, ugh. I’m grinding my teeth just thinking about it, the irony of it all. He was telling me to calm down? The man who looked like he was about to murder me when I dared to ask him if he wanted apple slices or gogurt with his happy meal? And all things considered, I had kept my cool remarkably well with him until this point. But goddamnit, he just crossed the line.

“Listen here, you little shit,” I said, grabbing him by the collar. “I asked you if you wanted the crispy deluxe, and all you said was just give me the chicken sandwich in that stupid, boneheaded voice of yours. Then I asked you if the McChicken was okay, and you said sure, whatever. So don’t talk to me like I made the mistake, you fucking prick. This was your own fault. And hey, maybe you could’ve said please, or thank-you, or I don’t know, you could have just talked to me like a human being, and this never would have happened. And don’t you dare tell to calm down when you’re the one who’s been an angry, miserable little fucker from the moment you walked in. Now get out of my restaurant, bitch, and don’t come back unless you want your ass handed to you.”

Okay, so I never actually said any of that, but oh, how I wanted to. 

The moral of this story is: don’t tell people to calm down, because all that usually does is make them angrier. And chances are, if you’re telling someone to calm down, it’s probably you who needs to calm down the most. (I feel like that’s always the case.)

Oh, and especially don’t tell me to calm down, because unless I’m at work or in a classroom, you will unleash a storm of fury of which no mortal being can escape. 

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14 thoughts on “You know what really grinds my gears?

  1. Regarding the old guy at McDonalds, some people just suck. But then again, I wonder what terrible things were happening in his life that made him that way. Maybe his wife just died, or maybe he lost a grand kid. Maybe his life has been one awful series of unfortunate events after another, and he’s just bitter now. Whenever I feel like punching someone in the face for being a jerk, I try to keep that in mind. It helps. A little…

    1. I do, too. 😦 Though I probably would’ve been fired for that, and I wouldn’t want to give him the pleasure of seeing it happen.
      But then again, my job is sort of terrible, thanks to customers like him.

  2. I’m with you. I absolutely hate it when people say “calm down”. And I can relate to having to deal with shitty customers. We get some nasty people at the theater, let me tell you.

    1. Oh, I could only imagine. Do people ever get really impatient when they’re the ones who showed up late for the movie? I feel like that’s something that would happen a lot.

  3. Someone telling you to “relax” or “calm down” is an old tactic to make sure that you get upset and overreact, which somehow justifies the accuser’s unreasonable behaviour or otherwise intimidate you into agreeing with them. I hate this sort of thing, and ultimately it is used (I think) to belittle and intimidate.

    Your response was the best (ignore the whole thing), though there are a couple of good responses to the person you dealt with if you wanted to be a bit more assertive…
    – Calmly and politely: “sir, I assure you that I am quite calm, and I want to help you” (in other words you are saying ‘FU”, but there are so many ways to say that aren’t there??)
    – A little more direct: “sir, if you would prefer I will have the manager take your order” (which is to say ‘if you don’t settle down I will get someone here who will not take your shit’)

    1. Ooh, I like both of those options. The second one especially, I wish I’d used. (I wonder how he’d respond to that.)

      Completely agree with you on why people say that. It’s one of the most unlikeable things a person could say.

  4. I don’t think I had anyone that bad when I worked at McDonald’s, plus all the managers would stick me in the lobby because I was the only one who would actually keep the floor and tables clean. Either way, I feel ya’. I’ve been told to calm down, and I just sorta pause and think, “what the heck are you talking about?”

    Some people are just rotten eggs, and you can’t let them get under your skin. Much easier said than done…

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