Short Story: Ugly Truths

“Everywhere I look, I see ugly people.” Lorna said, and I was momentarily unable to summon an answer. I put my phone down and looked at her. My frown invited her to say it again, just in case I’d misheard her. She frowned back, and repeated herself. “Everywhere I look, I see ugly people.”

I straightened up in my chair and looked round. The coffee shop we’d stopped in was pretty busy, but everyone looked – well, normal. “What do you mean?”

“Just look. There, and there, and there, and there.” She pointed at four couples sat at various tables, each intent on their conversations. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary at first. Then I thought I could see what Lorna was talking about.

Every single one of them had a look of disgust on their face as they talked to their partner. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, and wasn’t even sure if they were even necessarily reacting to the same things. The range of expressions was wider than I’d have thought, but by and large they centred around wrinkled noses and downturned mouths.

“See?” Lorna repeated. “Ugly. They’re fair on the outside, but ugly on the inside. They’ve settled for their lives, have turned their hope to regret, and it has poisoned and turned them.”

I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I took her hand to get her attention. “Then, am I ugly? Are you?”

“Have you settled? For what you do with your life? For this relationship?” There was a coy smile on her face that caught at my heart.

“No.” I said with more certainty than I’d thought I would. “No, I’ve not settled. Not for what I have, not for who I’m with. Not for you, never you.” We smiled at each other, and she nodded with satisfaction.

“Good, neither have I. Life’s too short to settle.”

Tough Calls

I love my job. You don’t hear that very often, but there you go. It’s true you know. The complexity of rotas and staffing and balancing the directives from above with the pragmatism of the shopfloor is all meat and drink to me. I love the challenges it brings me.

There’s a ‘but’ of course, attached to this. You know me well enough. Today that ‘but’ came courtesy of a number of calls and conversations with staff both where I was working and at our satellite branch. The same story, again and again of encounters through the week with an abusive customer.

Each person individually disclosed details in a pattern that came to feel more and more familiar. The same concerns and fears and anger of words used, actions taken and other customers abused have been disclosed through the day, and I’ve had to ask each person to write it all down and send me all the details so that I can properly log it and present it with a bow to the appropriate people who can ban the individual concerned.

“But we think management should know about this and do something about it!” I’ve heard several times today. I’ve had to reiterate that I am management, and this is how I am dealing with it – because I know how the process works and how important evidence is.

I may want to rush round and defend people in a blazing row, but I know it won’t actually solve anything. Tough calls to hear, tough calls to make. But I’m paid to do it, so there we are.