Sunday, June 2, 2019

Breaking the Rhythm

It was the first night of a six night gig in a nightclub in a fancy hotel in Berne, Switzerland (The Schweizerhof, which we, naturally, referred to as The Scheissekopf). We slept in the hotel and ate our meals there.

On the first day, I was nice to our waiters. Though starchy and formal, they tried feebly to return the friendliness. On the second day, they didn't try at all. On the third day, they radiated contempt, and on the fourth they were subtly rude. By fifth day, I worried they might spit in my soup.

Nothing had changed on my end. In fact, I kept trying harder to be nice, figuring I must have been doing something wrong. It didn't help. Quite the contrary.

Finally I asked a Swiss friend for his opinion, and he said "You're being overly nice. They don't respect you. And they suspect your motives."

The sixth night I ignored them completely. I was aloof. They behaved properly, and the meal went much more smoothly, their normal rhythms unbroken.

A friend who'd worked in a movie box office one summer once told me that his pet peeve was customers trying to be friendly and personal with him. He had a job to do, and it required a certain rhythm, and if you really wanted to be kind you wouldn't break the rhythm. You'd behave predictably, so he could efficiently do his thing without needing to indulgently redirect attention toward chatty yadda yadda.

Further Reading:
Surprising Behavior Breaks Things
Driving Tip

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