You know, I think there are some lessons to be learned from the economic downturn we have been experiencing the past couple of years.
One of those is how important it is to be civil to our neighbors. By “neighbors” I don’t necessarily mean the people who live by us, although they certainly count, but every fellow citizen with whom we come in contact, especially if that person is working at his/her job. Here are some of the things that got me thinking about this:
I go into a Subway Sandwich Shop every couple of weeks or so. I love their sandwiches because I can dictate exactly how they are made and, since the construction of the sandwich takes place right in front of me, there’s very little chance of it being done wrong. I try to speak clearly and politely to the people on the sandwich line.
Almost every time I go into Subway, though, one or more of the patrons is on his or her cell phone. I’ve talked here before about how people on their cell phones annoy me, but this goes beyond the run-of-the-mill rudeness. People in front of me will inevitably continue their phone conversations while they are trying to instruct the line people what they want on their sandwiches.
What message does this give to the person making the sandwich? This: “I am better than you and my time is more valuable than yours, so I will continue this phone conversation while you conduct the lowly job of making my sandwich.”
Last December, I was in a department store (very rare for me, even at Christmas; I try to stay out of them at all costs). The check-out line was three or four deep. Over to the side was a person who was working another station, like gift wrapping or something like that. The person in front of me decided that she didn’t want to wait in line anymore and went over to this other person doing the gift wrapping or whatever, and began to just go off on her, asking her why she couldn’t help out the overburdened cash register workers.
The store employee politely explained that she had been assigned this other job and did not have the authority to work a cash register. The store customer told her she was just tired of hearing people say "that's not my job" and she would be reporting her to her manager. She then went off in a huff.
Big old tears welled up in the eyes of the store employee. When I had made my purchase I went over to her, took her hand and said, “I just want you to know I think you are doing such a good job. I know it’s hectic this time of year and people are not always kind, but I really appreciate the job you are doing.”
Then the tears just started gushing down her face and she thanked me profusely. I could not have erased the hurt from the words of the other customer, but I hope I helped her out a little bit.
Lest you start telling me what a great guy I am, I am ashamed to tell you that the last example involves yours truly.
I have a lawn service that comes and fertilizes my yard and applies weed killer about a half dozen times a year. I know, I know, I could do this myself, but I live on more than an acre and the fact of the matter is they just do a much better job than I can and it’s worth every penny.
Anyway, this company does a great job but they really call me more than I wish they would. “Just calling to follow up, Mr. McKinney,” one of them will typically say, “and see if you’d like us to . . . (aerate/trim your shrubs/ spray for bugs in the flower bed/ pick your additional service that will cost me more).”
A couple of weeks ago this guy calls, just a few days after one of his colleagues had called me, and I had had enough. I told him I was really tired of the calls, that I didn’t want any additional services and if they kept calling I would just find another service.
The guy on the other end got really quiet, apologized and said he was “just doing his job.” And oh please, just shoot me now. I felt like the biggest heel.
Of course he’s just doing his job. Just like the guy or gal making my sandwich. Just like the lady doing the gift wrapping. It might be that any one of them might wish he/she could do something else, but guess what? Each one of them is working. Each is providing for his/herself and, very likely, a family. They are not collecting unemployment. They might be working these jobs in addition to others for all I know. The last thing someone like this needs is some jerk like me getting in his/her face because I might be tired or having a bad day.
I am blessed beyond measure. My wife and I are gainfully employed. I am going to be kind to my neighbors.