Last week I was teaching an evening class. Ben and Karen were my students, and it was their third week of class. They are still very much beginners, everything is still awkward, they are unsure of the steps, they dip too far in the furnace, forget to turn, all of it is still on a very steep, and sometimes very scary, learning curve. But it was the third week of four, and I am the instructor who wants them to get everything possible out of every minute. The hole is on, it's literally burning money, and we only have two hours of class each week. I am in mid-sentence, describing the maneuver I want them to learn with probably far too much detail I realize, but I was in a moment of thought and teaching, when I hear someone yell "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! (maybe one too many, fine)" from the rope. I paused ever so briefly, but decided to ignore it. We have signs all over the place, plus I was in mid-sentence, I think that's just rude. After another moment, the voice gets louder and yells "EXCUSE ME!!!!!!!" (If I could caps this bigger, I would). Finally, I look up and yell "WHAT?" in my annoyed voice. It wasn't one of my finer moments, but whatever. So the woman yells back "IS THE RESTAURANT OPEN??" And I yell back "I HAVE NO IDEA" and she walks away to the very obviously open restaurant.
Clearly I am not mentally aware of the time, or their current winter hours, nor do I ever really pay that much attention to the other businesses in the building. We are all neighbors, and we certainly support each other's success, but we are all busy and come and go as we do. Hours change, time goes by fast in my world, it's hard to keep up, I just don't pay attention. But more importantly, it's really hard to be interrupted in the middle of work to answer someone's completely self-involved question that would take them about 6 seconds to find out without bothering anyone else.
To be honest, I am probably offending several people who might read this blog, so many various people have yelled at me while I am teaching or blowing glass, friends included, I can't keep up anymore and usually I have no idea who it is, they walk away too fast for me to look up or see. I don't take it personally, and I don't let it be a reflection on the person, I am just tired of getting yelled at when I have a blazing hot ball of fire two inches from my skin or my face. Or even better, it's a beginner with hot glass two inches away from me. Students especially don't realize how close it is exactly to another person, nor are they necessarily quick and efficient with their movements. I have pretty quick reflexes mostly, but I just don't really love the smell or feel of a second degree burn, no matter how small it is. More so, I really fuck up the piece, which is annoying, and expensive, and just not what I do this for.
I think of it like asking a landscaper for directions while they are in the middle of trimming a tree. Or asking a police officer where the closest gas station is while they are in the middle of a traffic stop on the side of the road. Maybe not the most dangerous situation to interrupt, but certainly not appropriate and could get someone hurt. People who yell at us just don't pause - they obviously don't know what we are doing, and they don't seem willing to read the signs or take a moment to observe, which is hard when you are close to an open garage door. We even had one person upset with us that the door was open? This is really for our own necessity, we do not have air conditioning or heat in there and we need to open it sometimes, but he acted like the open door meant he could not control himself from talking to us?!?
If I could do it differently, I would. I would orient the studio differently, or figure out a better barrier system. For now, I have to play my music loud when I am doing my own work, so I can just pretend like I don't hear anyone who yells at me (I honestly can't hear anyone over the blower, the water on the pipe-cooler etc, the music just makes it more obvious to the yellers). When the team is working all together, usually one of us can answer, but not always, and even that can be awkward. We had a guy yell at us from the road a few weeks ago. But because we didn't answer him right away, we needed a minute to finish the piece, he got really angry while unloading his bottles and ignored us when we did try to help him. It's ok with us if he doesn't bring us bottles again, we have plenty coming in without that kind of energy.
We have changed our public hours to Saturdays only, for similar reasons. If you are interested in what we do, and want to learn and engage here, we want you to!! We just need to do it by appointment. We have spent over 5 years answering questions, chatting to people about glass, offering multiple free opportunities to view demos, low-cost products and even pay what you want items, and so much more. If you aren't interested in making an appointment and trying it out, or shopping in our store, or whatever it is we offer, you won't be doing it from the rope, no matter how many times I do or do not respond to you. If you got offended by us once, chances are you won't come back, which is really ok. I want everyone to be happy, and I want everyone to be our customer, but sometimes those two are not connected.
I'll end this post on a more positive note. While I am going to be eternally figuring out how to do better always for our business, sometimes I feel like we have it right. A longtime customer came in a few weeks ago who doesn't live in town. I recognized her and remembered the pieces she bought, asking if they were still happy with them. She has also donated anonymously a few times over the years, already proving her support many times. This is awesome and I love donations as much as anyone, but as a social enterprise, I have to fight the urge to fundraise all the time, it simply isn't in our mission or sustainability plans. Plus, I simply wanted to enjoy my Saturday and let my customer enjoy her day.
After a bit of wandering, she settled on one of our new animal lamps, an adorable fox. I wasn't expecting her to shop honestly, I just thought she was coming to say hi to us and the cats. But she bought the lamp :), and with it, left a very nice sizable donation as well. I was shocked to be honest, but I gratefully accepted and put it in the drawer. I don't think she realizes how much of an impact that has on us. When so many organizations are fundraising, all the time, and donors only have so many places they give their disposable income, it means a lot to have support come in unsolicited. It means that we are on the right track. They support what we do without us begging them to help. Money is always tight, even when it feels like we have some breathing room, we cannot get too comfortable and must save it for when we need it. We will always need it and things will get tight again for some reason, it just happens in entrepreneurship.
I am finally getting around to posting this blog, editing for typos and such, about three weeks after I wrote it. A week after I wrote it, I noticed no one yelled at me during our evening class. Two weeks after I wrote it, I noticed I was ignoring people, in a very productive, but not rude, way. Now, yesterday when I was blowing, if anyone walked by, I barely noticed. It was great. I was tired from a long day, but I didn't suck and if I did, I couldn't blame it on anyone else haha. And to write about some of these challenges actually makes them easier to manage. I make my students journal at Wake because I think they need it to reflect on their experience of learning, but funny how even after this much time, I think I have a clue, but even just the simple act of reflection on the yellers has made them almost go away....