The Worker / Employer Relationship

Lyle Burkhead (
Mon, 11 Nov 1996 02:22:28 -0500 (EST)

Michael Lorrey writes,

> I think that the reason Lyle said what he did, is that he either lives
> in one of those fairy land type countries, or he lives in an area where
> everyone is equally rude, so the rudeness of gov't employees seems
> rather normal.

Maybe it's just that I'm so truculent that other people seem nice by
comparison. ;-)

> (BTW Lyle, do you live in New York?)

No, I live (most of the time) in California, that fairy-land country
by the sea. I've spent some time in New York. It has its own kind of
rudeness. But I've been treated worse in Austin, Boulder, and Reno.

I think we are dealing in cliches and stereotypes here. I'm trying to
get away from that. Texas has its own kind of rudeness, so does the
northwest, so does California. And many New Yorkers are surprisingly

> I read an article in the paper recently on how northerners here in the
> US, typically from MA, NY, NJ, Chicago, and such, have an
> extremely hard time adjusting to the politeness and freindliness
> that many southerners naturally effuse. They think that if they are not
> being treated like shit that someone is trying to get something from
> them, or that they are wierd somehow.

There is probably some truth to this. My relatives live in Arkansas and
Louisiana, so that area is my second home. Southerners are friendly,
no doubt about it. But I have been to Chicago a couple of times in the
last few years, and found that the people there (the white people, at
least) were also very friendly. In fact I was a bit uncomfortable, being
among friendly midwesterners with my standoffish west-coast habits.
(I also felt like I was going from a third-world city to a first-world city,
but that's another story.)

Coming back to the original point: You were saying that there is a
causal relationship between (a) the fact that government agencies don't
need to create happy customers, and (b) the level of rudeness in those
agencies. If people were rational, this causal relationship would exist,
but in fact (in my experience at least) it doesn't exist. I have found
just as much rudeness, if not more, in department stores, drug stores,
restaurants, and other businesses, even though they can't afford to lose
customers. It is a mistake to assume that people are more rational than
they are.