Monday, August 17, 2009

Human Nature, Up Close

In my work with the rabbit rescue I have occasion to interact with general public, either at an adoption event or on a retail level at our new store. I'm still getting used to working in retail, and while being nice to customers is still somewhat of a challenge for me, I am meeting some very interesting people and having a good time. Whatever the setting, public contact does offer you some unique insights into human nature.

At adoption events I am often given the opportunity to watch parents and children interact. If I rated these encounters from very good to truly appalling and somehow made a graph out of the information, it would probably look like an upside-down "U"; that is, a small number of horrific incidents on one end, a small number of wonderful, gratifying ones on the other end, and the vast majority of them being kind of average and uneventful. For some diabolical reason the awful ones are slightly more memorable.

Case in point: A young girl around 12 came to an adoption event with her parents (who looked closer to my age and might very well have been her grandparents) to look at bunnies. The adults were the kind who don't quite get the whole parental-discipline thing and were using the bunny adoption as a bargaining chip to more or less bribe their daughter into acting a certain way. I don't approve of negotiating with 12-year-olds in matters of behavior and the daughter clearly knew she was calling the shots in the relationship. I will admit to knowing nothing about parenting and am not an authority on these things by any means, because I really believe all children should be on a continuous Valium I.V. drip until their early-twenties, at least.

But it seems to me that members of my generation, the dreaded "Baby Boomers," have pretty much turned out to be lousy parents. I think they were the first generation who were more interested in themselves and their own interests and welfare than that of their children. We were told over and over again from birth how wonderful and special we are, and while that is certainly true, it has sort of clouded our outlook on life to the point that our children were not really taught niceties such as social skills and manners. Now that the Boomer children are grown up and having children of their own, I think they realize how substandard their parents were and are starting to buy into the benefits of discipline and parental authority. I hope so, because this kid at the adoption event was in dire need of a reality check, along with the parents.

Then there are the parents who think rabbits are a good pet idea for their hyperactive, undisciplined, ritalin-addled youngsters who regard every attempt by their parents to rein in their behavior as a bothersome, easily-ignored, and ultimately pathetic attempt to be amusing and relevant. These little hellions are easy to spot, and shooting down their dreams of torturing, I mean having, a bunny as a pet is particularly fulfilling for me. Their parents have developed a nearly-impenetrable shield to the multi-dimensional obnoxiousness of their children, most likely as a last-ditch defensive firewall against the hellishness that the Fruit Of Their Loins has unleashed upon the earth. After I indicate to them where they can find the door, the parents often come back at me, tag-teaming me in an attempt to get their shrieking progeny what they want in order to shut them up for five minutes. They invariably find that under these circumstances reasoning with me will be just as productive and gratifying as reasoning with their own children.

And then, there are the people with their dogs who show up at the pet stores which host our adoption events. I know these people love their dogs like I love my rabbits, and they regard their canines as their children. But one thing they don't understand, along with their human-parent counterparts, is that the rest of the world does not regard their "children" with the same rapturous, mindless adoration as they do. They think nothing about letting their huge, snorting, slobbering beasts come right up to the rabbit pens and sniff at the poor rabbits. The rabbits are confined in a pen and really have nowhere to run and hide from these dogs, and I'm sure they pick up the dogs' scent and become very afraid. The dog owners are only concerned with Fido having a fun experience getting up close and personal with the rabbits and have no consideration whatsoever for how the rabbits are dealing with a gigantic predator as it suddenly and menacingly looms over them. When I go over and politely ask them to keep their dogs away from the rabbits (and I do ask them politely - the first time), they get very irate and take it personally, as if I asked them if their child has always looked retarded, or has it just happened recently. I was even told one time that if the rabbits were afraid of dogs they have no reason being in the pet store. While I believe most people are reasonable and responsible with their dogs, it's the few monumentally obnoxious dickheads that ruin everything for everyone else. It's just total ignorance and selfishness that causes them to act the way they do and, blinded by their own world-class self-absorption, go through life thinking that the world adores their dog (or children) as much as they do, which is SO not true.

So, dealing with the public has been and continues to be a real learning experience for me. Believe it or not, sometimes the patience I can find in dealing with clueless, misinformed people surprises even me. It's the ignorant and self-centered ones I love to smack down and put in their place.

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