stills from three people trapped in infinite politeness by carl burgess. genius.

i have spent my entire adult life to date working in service jobs. i am also the daughter of a japanese mother and so am at least half-steeped, if only by osmosis, in japanese culture and its ingratiating tendencies.
i am aware of politeness at almost all times.

i think i'm developing a permanent mark on my tongue from holding it so much. the service industry thrives on a philosophy of unfailing politeness, at least in my experience. sometimes it fails. but for all the instances of impoliteness or outright bitchy service i have suffered in my life as a customer, those moments pale in comparison to the sheer volume and intensity of impoliteness leveled at me by customers when i've worked as the person behind the counter. from basic things, like being on their cell phones when they order, to downright outrageous things, like spitting coffee in someone's face because it wasn't fixed right (this actually happened to my sister). there's a problem in the mechanism here, because this unfailing politeness thing doesn't work both ways. there was an italian gelato shop next to the restaurant where i used to work, and the owners' unofficial policy was "the customer is always wrong." they knew what they were talking about.

yet for the most part, i'm smiling. it can become a reflex, the polite smiling, if you're not careful. at one point i had heard myself saying "have a great day!" so much that i started playing with the delivery, just to ground myself:

"have a great day."
"you have a great day."
"would you do me a favor? have yourself a great day."
(that last one is best delivered in a half-whisper, like a precious secret.)

the amazing thing about those people up there is that they'll smile at you forever if you don't turn them off. spooky, no?