We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Challenge…When Anger Gets the Better of Us

Last week’s #bcsm tweetchat focused on the topic of “anger” and as usually, it was a wonderful hour of insights from an incredible group of people. Today’s post is on the long side, so grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and read on… 

My phone has been teetering on the edge of dysfunction for weeks now, and I’ve been trying to hold out for the iPhone 5. I’ve discovered a couple of work-arounds for the fact that my menu button no longer works, but with just weeks to go, you can imagine my frustration when, yesterday morning, it took over an hour for my phone just to turn on.

I recognize that I, like many, are overly dependent on my gadgets. Sometimes I’m not sure if make life easier or more complicated. Having lost hundreds of calendar appointments one time, all of my contacts another, I also should have learned my lessons about backing up data. Should have….

So I hatched a plan that would allow me to wait out the iPhone 5 release. I have insurance! If they can’t fix it, the insurance should kick in and I can get a replacement to use for the next month or so, preserving my “new every two” discount so that I can compare the highly touted Samsung Galaxy S3 to the iPhone 5. (A $1 billion dollar fine would imply that there was some significant similarities, and so I deemed the Samsung a worthy competitor.)

The best laid plans…

At about 10:15 yesterday morning I walk into the nearest Verizon store. It’s nearly empty. Two managers, one salesperson, one person on tech support, and two customers. I ask if I’m supposed to sign in, and after explaining what I need I’m told I can be seen at noon.



It seems that this store now only solves problems by appointment. And evidently I was notified about the new system on my monthly bill, which gets sent to my husband’s office.

“You could have sent a text. You have my number, right? You text me when you want to sell me things…”

Two managers (because neither of them had anything else to do) are trying to explain all the reasons why I’m wrong; their indifference to my frustration and the utter stupidity of their new system unhelpful.

I take the 12:00, and tell them I’m going to wait and let people know how I feel. So I hop on Twitter. And Facebook (lots of recommendations for AT&T, btw).

Then Dolf comes in. An older gentleman, who just bought a new phone a few weeks ago. He just wants a simple phone to make calls, one that connects to his car speaker. They phone they sold him does not. He can be seen at 12:30.

“WHAT? I just need to exchange this for a new phone.”

Another round of explanations from the same two managers who still having nothing to do. Equally frustrated, Dolf sits next to me and a can-you-believe-this conversation ensues.

Meanwhile I tweet:

.@VerizonWireless Been here 10 min & they r dealing w/their 2nd pissed off customer of the day. How’s this policy working 4 you, Verizon?

Then Nancy comes in, with a seeing-eye dog. You can sense her frustration immediately. Her phone screen is frozen. As her story unravels it is clear that for her, her phone is not a simple convenience; it is a lifeline.

1:00 appointment.

Nancy explains that she is stuck there, that because she is blind she can’t just go somewhere for the next 2.5 hours, and without a phone she can’t even call for a ride.

1:00 appointment.

She begs…can’t anyone help her? Don’t they understand how much harder this is for her? Don’t they care?

We have other customers who have been waiting. 1:00 appointment.

Now, they weren’t cold, exactly…but they sure weren’t compassionate. Nancy is the third customer in a row who are all pissed.

Nancy explains that she is willing to buy a new phone. Some complications on her account mean that it isn’t so simple, unless she wants to give up her phone number and start again…and even that will take 20-30 minutes, since there isn’t an available salesperson.

Who’s right? It’s hard to say. I am sitting there with no great love for the new system, nor the managers who really don’t seem to care an iota about their customers. And again, I’ve watched the same story unfold three times now and so I can just imagine how much anger gets tossed there way over a system that is completely out of their control.

Back to Nancy. Out of frustration one of the managers explains, again, that there are other people ahead of her. She explains, again, that she is blind, and accuses the manager of laughing at her. Finally he tells her that she can ask other customers to give up our appointments, but there is nothing he can do. And before our very eyes, we watch as Nancy dissolves into a fit of tears. You can hear in her voice that she’s on the brink, as she begins screaming at every customer in the store, begging for someone to help her. Over and over she explains that she is blind. Over and over, that she will buy a new phone. Over and over that she needs help. Eventually she collapses on the floor, wailing hysterically, even her dog agitated. And everyone watches.

Finally, I can’t take any more…it is just too sad. I walk up to her, crouch down beside her, and whisper, “Let me help you.”

She is too hysterical to hear me. Everyone in the store now captivated, I repeat myself.

I’m vaguely aware that if they haven’t already, one of the managers is going to call the police, and I use that to try and calm her.

Although I have mixed feelings about what’s going on – after all, everyone, disabilities notwithstanding, has to wait their turn in life, and I’m not playing my cancer card. Nonetheless, I cannot stand that she has been reduced to such indignation. She continues to wail. Her dog tries to calm her as well, to no avail. After a few minutes she has begun to wear herself out and quiets enough to hear me, though it is clear I’m not getting through. Eventually, slowly, her sobs take over and, like a foreign-language translator, I am able to kindly get through where the managers have failed. I lay out her options, and she likes none of them.

And then in walks the 11:00 appointment. I can just imagine what this scene was like for him, but he quickly sizes up the situation and offers his appointment as well. Since Nancy has decided she doesn’t want to pay full retail price for the iPhone, which will run her about $800, she thanks him and hands her phone to the technician. I can tell almost immediately that she thinks its hopeless, but I say nothing. Nancy is still sitting on the floor crying. I begin translating for the tech support person next.

Things improve when Karan comes to work. Karan is in text support too, and he’s amazing. He immediately sums up the situation and calmly explains to Nancy that he wants to help but she has to calm down so he can focus. He manages to cajole her off the floor and onto a bench. Someone brings her water and a roll of toilet paper while he works on the phone. The other technician quickly helps the gentleman at 11:00 and then turns her attention to Dolf.

Now I’m frustrated. If Nancy weren’t enough, I gave up my appointment but assumed we were still being helped in order! I quickly get my place back, explaining that while I understand they will help the person with an 11:30 appointment when she comes in, I am next. And it takes almost no time to figure out that my phone is beyond hope. The warrantee has expired, and worse, insurance will replace it for $100. Or I can get the Samsung Galaxy S3 for $200 (less $50 credit, PLUS a brand new $30 upgrade fee). Or put up with the problems I’m having for another three weeks.

P.S. I’m thinking about naming my new Samsung Priscilla.

* * *

As I mentioned, we had an awesome #bcsm tweetchat last week focused on anger. As breast cancer survivors, many of us diagnosed quite young, we have a right to be angry. And that anger has a tendency to pop up every now and again, at a world that has cancer in it, at the loss of our friends and loved ones to metastatic disease, at unfeeling or incompetent doctors, at insensitive bystanders who say stupid things, at organizations that claim to be helping and aren’t, at the slow pace of research, at companies that continue to sell products they know are dangerous, and at the millions of corporate dollars made on the backs of our disease. Yes, we have a right to be angry. But there comes a point where our anger, albeit justified, hurts ourselves most of all.

And that is, I imagine, what I saw at Verizon: the manifestation of living with anger. It was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking to see a grown woman driven to the point where she threw a public temper tantrum of the most spectacular kind. It was just as heartbreaking to watch a store full of people who were willing to let it get to that point, to see a system so unbending that there was really nothing they could or would do. Heartbreaking that the most compassionate creature at Verizon was the dog.

I do not know what it is to live a life of darkness. I can only imagine the isolation and fear that comes from feeling helpless in the world. I can’t even imagine how that builds over time, when every otherwise simple task becomes a nearly insurmountable challenge.

Over two hours after I entered the store I stopped to say good bye. They police had, in fact, come and Nancy was sobbing again. It occurred to me that she had no idea how over-the-top her reaction was, and I wondered how often she is like this in the world. The good news, however, was that Karan had her phone working, and he and I both explained that next time she has a problem she needs to go to the Apple Store. I urged Nancy to leave the anger behind when she walked out the door, gently reminding her that life is short and that only she suffers if she takes this anger with her.

I hope Nancy was able to excise some of her anger, and see that there were many of us at Verizon who were compassionate and willing to give of our own time to help her.

I hope the store mangers saw how their own employee was able to defuse rather than escalate the situation.

I hope others in the store saw everything that was wrong with what happened, and not what was wrong with Nancy.

I hope I jump in sooner next time…just maybe it could all have been prevented.

And I hope we all get better and better and letting go of the anger in our lives. Tomorrow I’ll finish up the ongoing “Celebrating the Ordinary” challenge with an even great gratitude.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mainelyhopeful
    Sep 02, 2012 @ 06:32:13



  2. Jan Baird Hasak
    Sep 02, 2012 @ 08:07:24

    That treatment just makes my blood boil…


  3. phxross
    Sep 02, 2012 @ 12:37:40

    I’ve found an independent cell repair store with an awesome owner. He gets furious customers that come directly from the Verizon /AT&T/T-mobile, etc, store where they were treated with customer disservice! Often he can fix it in 5 min or offer a solution.

    You are so right about anger, you have to let it go when the situation is over. Granted crying and having a public meltdown is a bit much (though we don’t know what happened during that day to add to her stress). I know people who hold onto anger unnecessarily thus increasing stress and emotions.


  4. Susan
    Sep 02, 2012 @ 13:42:34

    What a nightmare! I too have experienced the waiting at Verizon, but I hate to chime in that my experiences with AT and T wireless were worse on the waiting and how I was treated. I feel terrible for Nancy and I love the way you tied this in to the #bcsm chat that we had about anger. Great post Lori. BTW what did you end up doing about your phone. I think it’s worth waiting for the new Iphone, but I am confused about the insurance and I don’t know why a supervisor wouldn’t overide the three weeks to allow you to have the new iphone now. You are so close to it with your contract. If you did take the Samsung, I think it’s returnable if you don’t like it, in time for the iphone5, which I believe is much more user friendly. (I would make an appointment before going in the store thought to exchange the Samsung!).


  5. hopeforheather
    Sep 02, 2012 @ 22:16:15

    What an incredible post! I got sick as I was reading it. But the anger really struck me. I’ve been pondering about that & I’ve got to figure out the tweet chats on twitter! I wonder if #btsm does them too? 🙂


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