Are you interested in people? Well, not just in people, in their behavior towards others? If so, and you’re up for an experiment, watch how people interact with service workers. No, don’t just watch it, see it. Watch the interaction, see the results of that interaction in your fellow human.
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
When I was little, my mom and dad frequently took us to small diners for breakfast or dinner. It is often said our children learn by our example, much like, I’m assuming, we learned by our parent’s example. My dad always did something during those meals that has stuck with me over the years. He would treat our waiter or waitress with respect and always developed a rapport during the short time our paths happened to cross. He was polite, funny, and adaptable to the individual. I believe the value I place on humility in life was built from watching his example.
Some mornings, when I’m not running a little behind, I stop at the local Casey’s General Store for coffee. I walk through the doors to a medley of farmers, truck drivers, and other people, like me, struggling to just see straight, let alone function without their cup of liquid gold. I greet the same lady, behind the same counter, with the same welcoming smile, with a different comment every day. I beat her to her “good morning!” and invite her to be the one to respond.
The aroma of Casey’s in the morning is caffeinated. I am a sucker for hazelnut coffee. I often feel as if I float to the industrial coffee pot bank like Bugs Bunny floating through a scent trail towards the food in the kitchen. My feet don’t hit the ground until my Ozark Trail mug is full of steamy goodness and I’ve taken my first sip.
While I’m floating, mixing up the perfect blend of Hazelnut, 2 Sweet and Lows, and a mini creamer cup, I hear “Miss Casey’s” greet the same people, with the same “Good morning,” to hear the same silence. I see the emptiness. I see the rejection. I feel the invisibility. I’ve felt it in my profession. It’s not everyone, but definitely the majority; let’s say 60% of the people I see in 3 minutes time.
As I wait for my turn to pay, I listen. For what? I don’t know. Is it weird to just say…something? Something for her to work with? Someone to interact with?
It’s my turn. I smile. By this point, that sip I took 30 seconds ago, well, it has officially touched my soul which allows me to take the controls back from my autopilot. “Miss Casey’s” already has my total put into the register. She takes pride in knowing that I swipe my card and won’t be needing my receipt. She noticed the day I got my new cup. She even noticed when I put the new American Flag sticker on that cup. If it’s not busy, she’ll tell me about her morning.
Recently, I noticed a pattern; she compartmentalizes people who interact with her. To the people who treat her as a human, she says, “thank you” with sincerity. To the people who treat her like a small screen they mindlessly scroll by, she says, “thanks” while looking past them to the next person in line. Isn’t this interesting?
Dad taught me through his actions. He never used pretty words or “Danny Tanner-ed” me, thank god, but he led by example. He knows people. He has a massive heart that taught me to see people for what they are not as pawns in the game of life. My father is a man of character.