Today was a day of administrative chores. One of the deep wisdoms I’ve learned from owning my own business is that administrative work is also working. Going to the bank to make deposits, the post office to mail out books, answering emails from clients, going to the mall to take the computer to the Apple Store–all that is work. Hard work. In my case, hot work. It was 106˚F. And I came home and wondered “What have I accomplished today?”
The short answer is “Work. I did work.” And the longer answer is, “I stood up for myself. With kindness. And that was the most work of all.”
There are many reasons people treat anyone else rudely–they are tired, angry, you look like an easy target because you look different, belong to a minority, don’t look like them. But it hurts. It diminishes people. It feels unresolved.
I decided that part of my work today was to return to the eyeglass store because my glasses, which I have now worn for 10 days, do not help me see clearly. What I’ve been chewing on the last 10 days is not the fact I don’t see well. Rather, that when I mentioned it at the fitting, the staff passed me back to the eye doctor who ran me through the eye test again, lightning fast, not giving me a chance to decide if I really like 2 better than 1, or if there was a difference between 3 and 4.
When I told her that I was an artist and a writer, and needed excellent vision, she sighed and said, “Oh, yeah, right.” She then said that the prescription was fine and left the room. I followed. In the hallway, in front of both store employees and other customers she said, “I TOLD you it would take 10 days for you to get used to the new glasses, but I guess you DIDN’T LISTEN” I felt as if I were 80 and had wet myself in public.
So today when I returned because the lenses on my sunglasses had a light leak at the edge of the frame, I mentioned that I had been treated badly by the doctor. The woman got the manager, and I repeated the sentence. The manager said, “Everyone loves Dr. X”
And this is where I stood up for myself. I said, “Dr. X treated me disrespectfully, scolding me in front of three staff members and five other customers. I was humiliated. But most of all, I cannot see clearly out of any of the glasses that I just paid $668 for. I want to have glasses that I can see clearly with. If you cannot provide me with a doctor who will solve the problem for me, I will go to an ophthalmologist who can, and I expect you to pay the full fee. Can we discuss these choices?” I spoke clearly and calmly. And I smiled at the manager when I was done.
She stammered at first, said that it was impossible. “Which one of the choices is impossible?”
“That you go see another doctor and expect us to pay.”
“It solves the problem that you could not solve. I have another suggestion: I return the glasses and you return my money.” I was still calm.
She looked scared.
“Please tell me your solution,” I said, still calmly.
“How about we let another doctor examine you and see what the problem is?”
I agreed to this solution, because it is on the way to getting me glasses that work. So now I have an appointment, and I worked hard today. I stood up for myself. Not with anger. Not by insulting people who were not involved, but with kindness. And that was the hardest work of all.
—-Quinn McDonald is an artist and a writer and needs glasses that correct her vision to 20/20, which she does not find unreasonable.