Kieyama “Kieke” Sibley spends a great deal of time providing customer service, from Hennepin Theatre Group patrons to Holiday Stationstore customers, to her mom for whom she works as a personal care attendant.
Sibley is a resident of St. Paul where she rolls out of bed at 5 am at least four mornings a week to hit her 7 am shift at Holiday Stationstore. When there’s an Orpheum Theatre, State Theatre or Pantages Theatre show to work, she barely has time to catch her breath (and maybe a nap on the hour-long bus ride), shuttling to downtown Minneapolis.
Other evenings, she gets off at Holiday and makes it over to her mom’s home in St, Paul. Having to juggle bus schedules occasionally calls for precision timing. For instance, the night Sibley shot out the door from The Lion King at the Orpheum, right after work, and raced down Hennepin Avenue to 6th Street, just in time to see the taillights of the number-94 bus disappearing as it took off.
“I was mad as hell,” she recalls, which is pretty well understandable. The taxing alternative was to schlep over to the bus shelter and wait for a number 16. “The later you catch it, the longer you have to stand there and wait. And, then, man, that [route] stops so many times going down University Avenue. It takes forever. The number 94 will get you there to downtown St. Paul in 20 minutes.”
That’s where she switches to a number 64. Imagine how grueling a trip it was the night she got to the bus stop just seconds late. She’s going to talk to her supervisor about maybe being able to get off a few minutes early on nights she has to hot foot it back to St. Paul.
The three part-time jobs put together, Kieke averages a full 40-hour workweek. It’s a grind, but one that she takes with a grain of salt. Indeed, the attractive 28-year-old, who has a dry sense of humor, pretty much evinces a matter of fact attitude about things in general. It’s sort of a shell.
“You have to be able to get through the day,” she says. “You can’t let stress stress you out.”
As anyone who has worked serving people will tell you, one job doing customer service is enough. Two? Especially serving different styles of clientele? You really have to have the disposition for it.
Hennepin Theatre Trust runs the Orpheum, State and Pantages catering principally to the well-to-do. At Holiday, there’s more of a cross section, ranging from the well heeled to folk who are just this side of flat broke. What the two occupations have in common is that, along with one’s supervisors, everyone who walks in the door is more or less a boss and no two people are going to come in quite the same way.
That’s just the nature of working in customer service. You can deal with someone who’s pleasant and sensibly polite one moment only to find yourself putting up with a jerk the next. You don’t get to pick and chose whose personality is helping to pay your salary.
In short, both jobs call for patience. Not, however, to the point of being a doormat. And, being only human, she admits, “There are times that I lose my patience. But, I just don’t let it show.”
So, how does she deal with it? “I’m not going to let someone — just because my job is to help them — disrespect me. Just let them talk to me any old kind of way.
“That business about the customer always being right? Wrong. If they’re right, that’s one thing. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong and that’s all there is to it. Not that I’m going to be rude in return. But, when it’s necessary, I will put someone in check and let them know they need to give respect if they expect to receive it.”
Does the same principle hold when it comes to her other job? “Yeah. Me and my mom have that kind of relationship. We do respect each other, but, she knows I’m going to say something when she’s wrong.”
How is it having her mother as her employer? “It’s all right. It’s not bad. The plus side is that you take care of your mom.”
Not one for a lot of words, asked what she does on a day off, usually Mondays, Kieke looks you square in the eye and succinctly answers, “Nothing.”
Who can blame her? When the theater shuts down for a few days, sometimes a week or more, she gets to catch her breath. However, she also has to make do with that much less employment. So, she adapts.
“I don’t spend a lot of money, anyway. Just enough to take care of my bills.” Like a lot of folk these days, “Kieke” Sibley simply does what she has to in order to make do.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.