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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Service with a sneer

I may not always be in a receptive mood for humiliation, yet I somehow manage to find myself in disastrously demeaning circumstances anyway, aka my entire college experience. The tuition fee was essentially a premium to convert my life into material that could be misjudged as Shakespearean tragedy. And it would seem a judgment has been passed not only from my own introspection, but from others as well, particularly Stony Brook faculty.

I have grown wary in engaging campus staff, out of fear for my own emotional stability.  Normally, I do not mind foul customer service—I even find it to be rather amusing. It has always agitated me that people are expected to pretend to care about jobs they do not actually care about. And it seems a tad ridiculous for employers to ask for such a cheerful disposition. It is not as if they are given the reign to scribble in hired hands’ contract, “And don’t forget to act as if you actually care.” I think that is expecting too much. I really like the fact we live in a country with such poor customer service; I have respect for that.  Many individuals are unhappy with their job—that much is made certain. The occupation with which a paycheck is its only enjoyment will eventually become a Sisyphean task to the individual’s psyche—the capacity to feel happiness is squandered. It is a system of misery that we have so proudly achieved, and while glorying in this accomplishment, we will hear Mick Jagger’s lyrical maxim play during shift hours, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Yet, SBU student service has the tendency to lend itself to frightfully rude behavior—the kind I am surprised to find myself perturbed by. I thought I was enlightened enough to appreciate the occasional churlish attitude from a staff member, but as it so happens, I am much less emotionally assured than I initially imagined. The student body has been victimized by faculty criticism long enough; the social confidence we have accumulated over the years has been auctioned off, and we are simply left with a feeble bidding paddle, wavering in uncertainty. My spring semester has hardly been of welcome doormat material, and my distress of interacting with Stony Brook personnel has reached a limit.

Two weeks ago, I had the inane idea to finally try to use the fitness center here on campus. After an excruciating, yet successful, six minutes on the treadmill (hold the applause), I decided head back to the dorm. Upon leaving, a student at the check-in counter asked, “You’ve finished already?”

I was stunned.  No, I was paralyzed by disgrace. I was half tempted to deny my intentions of departing and try to make a hasty U-turn back to the imprisoning hamster wheel. I had not realized there was a conventional time-span one must spend at the gym; I am not good with commitment.

This was not the only incident of degradation I have endured. The Campus Bookstore, rumored as being one of the Seven Cities of Gold from what we can gather from the prices, is hardly exempt from this behavior either. I went through a slight academic crisis at the beginning of the semester (that or I either established a barter system with my SOLAR account).  I virtually swapped a class nearly four times within one week, which lead to a frequent number of trips to the textbook room and back. My last foray into that extortionate hell consisted of a cursory glance over my schedule followed by the inquisition, “Philosophy? Really?”

The Stony Brook Student Handbook provides a mission statement for campus employment: “The student employment programs at Stony Brook University serve several purposes. They provide financial support for Stony Brook students who choose to work while attending school and furnish students with a vital educational experience.” They seemed to have left out the fact that SBU services provide advanced training in how to destroy the backbone of your average customer. A few staff members perform this task with such efficiency that I don’t see why they should not get a raise. For example, I have never been ashamed to confess the fact I am a fanatic Red Mango habitué; I am their most devoted and dependable Friday night patron. However, due to recent events, I have begun to question my proclaimed identity. The sense of mirth I feel upon ordering my frozen yogurt regular has now vanished from, yet another, brutal encounter. The cashier had legitimately asked me last week, “And would you like two spoons with that?” I wanted to die.

“No, thank you.”

“Are you sure?”

…Am I sure? I may have inveterate, embedded doubt with almost every decision I make, but when I order a meal, I have no qualms in polishing off most, if not all, of my purchase. I had not realized that shame was now a topping of choice—don’t mind if I indulge in three servings (I have a strong stomach).

And how can I forget this past Monday’s thrilling confrontation with one of our floor resident assistants.  I was required to take an online interactive fire safety course from the previous daisy-chaining blunder I had violated. The RA who delivered the paperwork thought it necessary to add, “And will this be your last infringement on our safety policy?” I almost flunked the course right then and there out of the strong compulsion to set myself on fire.

Despite my affront at these belittling interactions, I have decided to take the high road and not let it bother me. I am mature enough to simply ignore any haughty comment and move on with my life. Just as the Rolling Stones so eloquently put it, “You can’t always get what you want.” Of course followed by, “But if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need.” And I just might need a funeral pyre for SBU customer service.

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