But the class was leavened with humor.
The students learned that 55 percent of a message is conveyed through tone, 38 percent through body language, and 7 percent through spoken word. So even an apology can be fraught.
“Don’t make [it] sarcastic, like, ‘Sorry, sorry, I’ll never be as smart as you,’ ” said instructor Karen Coffey, adopting a pinched, nasal tone. “That’s just going to escalate the situation. And also, don’t use the apology to point out what they did wrong.
“Just apologize for whatever the inconvenience is they’re experiencing. Then you do your best to empathize with the customer. Who knows what empathy is?”
“Putting yourself in that person’s situation,” said Peter Young, a Green Line operator.
“Exactly,” she said.
After eight hours, class was dismissed. They went home, all using roads or transit or both.
Performers out of costume, they were customers just like everyone else.
Eric Moskowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.