Sunday, June 9, 2013

How a Clerk Copes: fake extreme pleasantness

There are many series swirling around this blog, some of which I've forgotten and may never continue, some that roll around pretty regular like and are all lit up and easy to see, and some that sort of disappear into the fog and then suddenly reappear way closer than you

Are you okay? Whew, that was a close one. We almost crashed into it. We almost bit the farm!

What did we almost crash into? One of those series thingies. Sorry, I thought we were still a couple hundred hours away from it. The safety procedures for blog imagination needs a lot of work!

What series? Oh, just park here and we'll walk over and take a look.

This series is "How a clerk copes", where we look into the various coping mechanisms that clerks employ to deal with the indignities, tedium and toil of clerking. Last time we discussed the "extreme pleasantness" coping mechanism, which is a, well, extremely pleasant coping mechanism. And it made me think of today's coping mechanism: fake extreme pleasantness. Fake extreme pleasantness is not quite so pleasant. Oh no, not so pleasant at all. The adjective I actually think of for this is "unhinged", but people use what they can to get by.

In this coping mechanism the person exerts a willful cheerfulness. I think it's a kind of saying "I am happy. I am happy." endlessly and in everything. I get the impression that people employing this coping mechanism may, sometime in the far past, have hoped to make it so by saying it, but when they get to me at my job that hope is long gone and all they're trying to do is drown out everything and anything that might disturb them. Unfortunately the longer that happy lid is on the pot, the more everything trying to get out seems like something to disturb them and the happier the lid has to be. The pressure grows immense inside and the pot itself starts to come apart. Weird things leak out the sides. The person gets disconnected. You end up with the sort of clerk who tells you bad news as if it's good news, might profoundly commiserate with you over miniscule trifles that don't bother you at all, and will answer your questions incorrectly about half the time. If you're a co-worker this person may occasionally ask you a semi-personal question in a very focused way and then pay no attention to the answer. Mostly though this person will have few social interactions in the workplace.

So I have to say this is a very messed up coping mechanism. Indeed, it's a tragic coping mechanism. I am getting rather sad just writing about it, but does it work as a coping mechanism? I don't know. Sort of? I mean, looking at the couple of co-workers I've had who were heavily into this coping mechanism, they seemed to walk around in a sort of buzzing pleasant fog, checked out of reality but still nominally functioning. Terrible at their job, yes. And they definitely need real help, but, barring that, is this coping mechanism all that keeps them from becoming an axe murderer? It seems possible. It seems very possible.

Of course it could be leading them there as well.


  1. You might really benefit from taking a few psychology courses. There are very few actual axe murders. Look at the statistics. There are, however, lots of people struggling away at life doing the best they can. There are also many people who go around calling anything or anyone they don't like "crazy." That's fine for a joke. But when you take a joke seriously it lead to problems.

  2. It is really well written and interesting article, but I think that the conclusions are a little harsh. A lot of people, if not most, suffer from mild depression. I don't see it as a big deal at all. The axe murderer reference makes me cringe a tiny bit. It's maybe a little insensitive maybe? But, yeah, a lot of the blog posts here are really good in general.

  3. Thank you for the kind things you have to say about my blog. In my defense I would like to ask if you've ever worked with an axe murderer? One gets inured to the threat and menace after awhile, but starts to lose it over the little things; the axe knocking over your cappuccino again, the axe "accidentally" whacking you in the shins, the axe left laying on your keyboard, dripping...


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