I’m talking about a rather ambivalent word today, ‘Entitlement’. One way to define it is ‘having a right to something’. I have no problem with that; that’s a good thing. We all have a right to certain things. According to the International Bill of Rights, each and every human on this planet has 1) The right to equality and freedom from discrimination, 2) The right to life, liberty, and personal security, 3) Freedom from torture and degrading treatment, 4) The right to equality before the law, 5) The right to a fair trial, 6) The right to privacy, 7) Freedom of belief and religion, and 8) Freedom of opinion. That’s not the type of ‘Entitlement’ I’m referring to. The aforementioned rights are reasonable and every human being that resides on this planet should be afforded those rights. What I’m referring to is the type defined as ‘the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment’. That is when the word takes an ugly turn.
I would prefer not to make assumptions, but if I were, I’d bet each of you has met someone that fits that ‘profile’. I can guarantee you that I have. There is one individual that stands out from my past who was a living, breathing example of the second definition I provided. From the moment we met, I took an instant dislike to her. She was a colleague at the college campus I was also working at but for some reason, rather than using any of the three bathrooms she had available in her building, she used the one in ours. It was the only bathroom we had in our building and it was nearest to my desk. Because of its proximity to my desk, I also got the ‘pleasure’ of smelling the after effects. Anyhow, it didn’t matter what the weather was like, we could be experiencing a blizzard, and she would still take the time to put on a jacket, lock up her office, walk across the parking lot, enter our building, and ‘go’ #1 or #2 in the toilet in our only bathroom. To put it mildly, it rubbed me the wrong way.
“Where does she get off thinking she’s entitled to the use of our bathroom?” I used to think to myself. It didn’t make any sense, especially because there was no shortage of them in her own building. If she was a little more ‘likable’, it may not have bothered me so much, but aside from her insolence, she always found a way to ‘trip me up’. Too vague? You’d like an example? Ok. Well, one conversation that stands out took place on the day after the 4th of July. In case you don’t already know, the 4th of July is the anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. It’s a national holiday and people celebrate it in a number of ways, most notably, by displaying the American flag on their property, attending a parade, hosting a BBQ in their backyard, and/or lighting off as many fireworks as they can afford.
The Fourth of July and New Year’s are by far, the noisiest of all American holidays. I know that on both of those days/nights, sleep will elude me. It is to be expected. Ok, now allow me to double back to the conversation where Ms. Entitled tripped me up. As usual, she stopped by the office to use ‘the facilities’. Briefly pausing at my desk after she entered the building, she brought up the Fourth of July. It was done in a very non-threatening manner. She wanted to know if my family celebrated and if so, whether we set off fireworks. “Oh, yes!” I readily agreed, unsuspectingly walking straight into her trap, “That’s the best part of the Fourth of July! My kids love setting off fireworks.” I should have known it was coming because she’d already ‘tripped me up’ countless times, but I have a tendency to talk first and think second.
“I called the cops on my neighbors last night,” she said with an air of righteousness, “They know I have a baby and it was extremely rude and ignorant of them to set them off. It was nearly 10 o’clock at night. People should respect the rights of their neighbors and not be allowed to set off fireworks.” Hmmm. I sure stepped in that one! I wish I could say it was the first time she ‘tripped me up’, but it happened over and over again. Each time it would occur, I would be so mad at myself for walking straight into her lair! Still, that wasn’t the worst of it. When the next shoe dropped, things actually managed to get worse. By ‘the next shoe dropped’, I mean when she commandeered our break room for a year. How did she manage to do that? Well, just like when she decided that she was entitled to use our bathroom as often as she wanted, after she had her baby, she decided she was entitled to use our break room to ‘pump’.
My boss knew the relationship between Ms. Entitled and me was already at a slow boil, but according to her, she had ‘no say in the matter’. She informed me that the Human Resources Director contacted her and stated that Ms. Entitled would be using our break room to ‘pump her breastmilk’ as often as she needed and for as long as she wanted (up to 2 years), and there was nothing we could do about it. Ms. Entitled had made the request and they honored it. Oh, yippee! Using our bathroom anytime she pleased wasn’t enough? Now she’s managed to commandeer our break room, too??!! What really got under my skin was the fact that now our entire staff had to ‘work around her schedule’, rather than the other way around. It really pissed me off! The months that followed became more and more tense, especially whenever Ms. Entitled walked into the office. I became increasingly resentful and angry about the situation.
Not surprisingly, there was an ‘exchange’ at some point. It had been nearly a year since she took over the break room and I was tired of her comings and goings. I tolerated her because I had to but I wear my emotions on my sleeve so I’m not good at faking. One day when she walked in, as she passed by my desk, I called out, “Hey, I just have a question. Do you know how much longer you’re going to continue to use the break room?” Look, before you jump down my throat, I know it was wrong. I was feeling particularly feisty and should have kept my mouth shut, but I didn’t. I was just so sick of her and her sense of entitlement. Holy crap! I must tell you, she didn’t take it ‘lying down’. She spun around incensed with rage, walked up to my desk, leaned over it to get as physically close to me as she could, and started screaming, “DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM????!!!”
She screamed it at me over and over again, until my boss came out of her office and intervened. The days that followed were so incredibly uncomfortable and awkward, I didn’t even want to show up for work. Each morning when I’d wake up, her name would pop into my head and I couldn’t seem to let it go. It just circled around and around and around. Sometimes I would shout (inwardly) at myself to ‘stop’ and ‘shut up’, but it was of no use. After a couple of weeks, as good fortune would have it, she stopped coming over to the office. I could finally breathe again. All of the anxiety started to subside and work life became pleasurable again. Oh! But it doesn’t end there, my friends! Less than two months later, my boss called me into her office. “Ms. Entitled has contacted Human Resources. She is pregnant with her second baby and once it’s born, she wants to use our break room again,” she stated, with great concern on her face.
Are you f-ing kidding me??!! I wanted to scream!! Why? It didn’t make sense! Why, after everything, would she insist on coming back and using our break room? It felt like a power play and I didn’t feel like playing. I was so angry, I could hardly see straight. “If she comes back, I’m outta here!” I said to my boss, “There’s no way I’m putting up with that crap again.” I meant it, too. I was willing to stay until the baby was born, but then I intended to move on. Amazingly, my boss fought for me. She didn’t want to lose me. She talked to the Human Resources Director and suggested alternative locations for Ms. Entitled which would be preferable over ours and not further fuel the fire. To my shock and surprise, the director agreed. I couldn’t believe it. My boss went to bat for me and the higher-ups came through. And, aside from when I spotted her in the parking lot, I never had to deal directly with Ms. Entitled/Insolent/Obnoxious again.
I don’t remember anyone ever going to such lengths on my behalf before (other than my husband). Prior to that, I was feeling so much bitterness and anger. When my boss stuck her neck out for me, it left an indelible impression and completely changed the nature of our relationship. She felt less like my ‘superior’ and more like my ‘friend’ and I so appreciated what she did. It’s not often that people step out of their comfort zone and fight for others, but my boss did. We are still friends to this day. In fact, she’s one of my dearest friends. It’s a friendship I treasure and will never neglect or forget. To have someone like that in my life is truly a gift. By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I nearly forgot! Thanks so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading my blog. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.