This past couple weeks have brought back some fun memories for me. I’ve been working in the public again. In this case, seeing a new face in front of me about every 60 seconds for 4-5 hours straight while I scanned and bagged their groceries. It makes the average person laugh to learn how much I care when it comes to serving others, but what the hell, I like making people laugh too and I’m not the only one like this.
I remember driving taxicab in a small town in Pennsylvania with this attitude. My clients were mostly elderly women on their way to the hospital 10 miles away. A fund from the state lottery subsidized their trips to the point where I was collecting 30 cents from them for the trip while attempting to treat each one like a guest in my cab.
One day, I got out to open the door for this woman and help her in, only to be berated for 5 minutes over how wrong it was for me to assume she needed help. My dazed mind arrived at the next stop and sat in the car waiting for the client to enter, which was followed by a 15 minute lecture on how rude and unmanly I was and a phone call to my employer filled with complaints and demands for me to do better.
This week the same scenario played out again, several times. One person will get annoyed at the bags not being full enough whilst the following person will throw a small tantrum over how the bags are too full.
One gentleman from a church had his tax exempt card get rejected, he patiently said, “That’s okay,” and handed me the full amount. Before he left I had to ask which church he was from, just in case I want to meet more people like him. He was from First Christian Church of Duncan.
Within an hour, another man from a different church had the same problem. Trying to buy an ice cream and angry as hell that he would have to pay a few pennies tax. He left in a huff, without the ice cream. I forgot to notice which church he was from.
Some people in line get annoyed and rude at the person I’m serving who has counted out all their pennies and come up short. They get angry at my patience and expect me to ‘do something’ – Some people in line politely offer to pitch in the needed coins, with a smile, helping move the line along and helping a stranger go home with food for supper.
My best gig serving others was driving taxi in the city of Austin long ago. The pay was rather lousy but the variety of people to get in and spend a few minutes with me was priceless. Quite often when picking a person up at the airport they would exclaim, “You speak English,” to which I would answer, “You’re from New York aren’t you?” Most times I was right, we had a good laugh and I received a generous tip.
People on the East side would ask, “What’s a white boy doing down here?” “Trying to pay my bills,” was best answer I could come up with. They found my color blindness curious, but appreciated it usually. Quite often I received friendly advice on how dangerous it was to be so trusting. Not one of them, in 2 years of that gig, ever harmed me or ran on a fare.
One thing I have learned through this journey so far is that the average person, even on a bad day, will respond to respect. Sometimes with shock, sometimes with amusement. Sometimes all I notice is that they back off their anger a little.
One thing I would suggest to people in general is that the servants you meet in life, the taxi drivers, shop clerks, receptionists at the doctor’s office, etc., aren’t being paid much and in many cases, your smile and mutual respect for them is better pay than the lousy wages they get being used 32.5 hours per week with no benefits by some corporate monster that doesn’t even know their name.
If the store is out of shopping carts, it’s not the fault of the haggard clerk who just walked in the door. If the medical bill you’re upset about is too high, it’s not the fault of the receptionist answering the phone at the hospital. These servants you meet are usually working for minimum wage, dealing with the same hassles as you are and wishing they didn’t have to sit there and be polite while you dump on them. We’re all in this together.