potty mouth

spring cleaning | potty mouth

Potty mouth. How many of us have ever had our mouths washed out with soap—or at least been threatened with that?

Want to know how old I am? I’m so old that when a high school teacher washed a student’s mouth out for swearing in class, nobody thought of crying foul, much less of a lawsuit.

restaurant potty mouth

I spent quite a few years in the restaurant industry, both front and back of the house. The “back of the house” is usually not a pretty place—both in terms of physical space and energetic space.

And it’s always entertaining to see a highly professional, polished server come through the kitchen doors and take on a completely different persona.

That’s what the walk-in cooler is for, right? Swearing a blue streak at the top of your lungs when you just. can’t. even. any. more. not. even. for. one. minute? (Try not to frighten the manager making out with the prep cook in the corner there. There’s no inappropriate fraternization happening here.)

I’m trying to avoid the question of whether the restaurant industry has become safer for women or not. I’m definitely not thrilled to see female chefs reaching parity with their male counterparts in abuse allegations. Maybe we simply chalk it up to chefs all being human, equality be damned. (And what a sad statement of humanity that is.)

Anyway, two linguistic achievements from my restaurant/food service industry years:

  1. A greatly expanded vocabulary of Spanish slang.
  2. A really, really bad case of potty mouth.

call center potty mouth

When I was younger and the kids were little and one of them would let “a bad word” slip, my husband would significantly raise an eyebrow in my direction and say, “*I* don’t use those words….”

Although I’m completely grown up now (well, maybe just older), part of my work life is still/again in the service industry. When you’re rude or too high-maintenance, there is often a stark difference between the person who politely takes your meal order at the medical center and the one who appears after they hang up the phone. (And yes, I’m including myself occasionally.)

There’s no walk-in cooler in the office, though, so most of us try to keep a lid on the potty mouth most of the time. And accessing the walk-in cooler in the kitchen next door would at a minimum require a hair net, so no, thanks, that’s too much trouble.

(Totally unrelated question: why are hair nets only available in brown in that kitchen? Can I claim some sort of discrimination if they don’t provide me with gray ones?)

potty mouth, revised

What can you do about potty mouth if it’s something you need to clean up?

One of the best pieces of communications advice I have ever heard is: never answer a triggering email (letter, phone call, text…) in less than 24 hours. (The second best, about office emails: never send an email you wouldn’t cc your boss on.)

I know: these days if you don’t instantly respond to a text, the first responders will be showing up at your door. If that’s the case, then I suggest you need to help your people revise their expectations. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

And firing off a reply full of bad words in the heat of the moment is not going to serve you well in the long run.

I’ve taken this “wait 24 hours” advice to heart, and here are my observations:

  • It’s very therapeutic to write the email/letter/text/phone call script in the moment. I use all the naughty words I want. I let my potty mouth run wild.
  • The next day, I find that it’s much easier to revise and edit, cut out the bad words, and actually say something useful.

from the trenches

I was mentioning on a group call that the past two months have been an exercise in getting in touch with my inner b!tch. (Come on, the title of the post was probably warning enough that bad language appears in it.)

exhibit 1

A CPA who dropped off the radar after taking money to set up an account and another deposit at the time I dropped off our tax documentation. (Which I did in early February, not April 14 mind you.) After numerous calls and emails, I found out the week before tax returns were due that he would be filing an extension for us. And then he disappeared again.

exhibit 2

An HOA and property management company who have known for more than a year that there is a serious grading issue in the back yard that is causing all kinds of water issues in- and outside my unit. It would be awfully nice to have a deck this summer….

Oh yes, there’s been lots of bad language at my house the last few months.

And ultimately, it’s been edited into more positive and useful communications. One neighbor with whom I shared the letter I wrote to the HOA and management company commented, “That’s the nicest nasty letter I’ve ever read!” Another one said, “Could you work my name into that letter, too?”

[So far, I seem to have made some major inroads with both situations—stay tuned, though, and don’t stand too close to my open windows if you have tender ears.]

make the connection

Got a potty mouth you need to clean up before it gets you in trouble? Try the 24-hour rule: never answer a triggering email (letter, phone call, text…) in less than 24 hours. And if you need to draft what you really want to say in the moment, for the love of all things holy, don’t put an email in the To: line, and don’t hit send.