Servers, clerks and parking attendants – invisible people

In this society, there are jobs which are taken for granted by many, such as servers, store clerks and parking attendants. And the irony – aside from the fact that each of these individuals are still people and deserve to be treated as such – is that these very individuals have the power to make your few moments in their realm pleasant and effective… or otherwise.

I’m reminded of a few scenes:

* A young woman who had completed her training as a parking attendant only lasted a few days on the job. Each time I saw her, I’d ask how she was doing and how her new work was going. And each time she responded sadly that her customers had been so mean to her that day.

* As a clerk was assisting a customer who demanded a discount though he didn’t have proof of his discount status, he looked down upon her and said, “Look at my title on my business card, and tell me I have time for this.” And there was a similar scenario in which a customer told a bookstore manager that if any of her co-workers had gone to college, they would’ve been able to understand his inquiry. (Incidentally, of course many of her co-workers had completed or were working on their undergrad, and several had completed their masters. Bookstores do tend to attract such employees.)

* Years ago, baristas adjacent to a retail store had shared with me the change in the demeanor of their customers. They’d witness their customers at the retail store, relatively polite to the clerks, shift into nervousness and rudeness when they stopped by to order their latte. The baristas had seen it often enough to assume a pattern having to do with the change in dynamic of the relationship their customers felt towards them.

* In line in a Siberian post office, I was waiting to pick up my mail. Someone had pushed their way in front of me, but I hadn’t been bothered by it. As I approached the window, the postal worker recognized me because I always asked after her health. She ignored the gentleman whose turn it was and who’d pushed his way in front of me, and she ran to grab my mail, excited on my behalf that I’d received letters from loved ones near home. Humorous, no?

Where does this come from? I would guess a couple sources: insecurity and bullying. Whether we’re headed to the theatre trying to find an inexpensive, safe place to park; or trying not to look like an idiot as we place an order at restaurant where we don’t know anything about the food; or whether we’re feeling bad about our job but better about it when we engage with a clerk. Maybe the cruelty comes because we’re feeling bad about ourselves.

So, as I see it, we could approach a solution from two angles, whether magnanimous or self-interested: that people in these invisible positions deserve the same respect as others, and that these same people can make our journey smooth.

Comments

  1. Brenda,

    I was wandering in the internet and came across your blog. Nice post.

    I've had personal experiences on similar issues. I do believe that if think deeply about how exactly we respect people, we can do it without considering their job title of Vice President or clerk or Mom.

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  2. Oh, Suma, what a beautiful comment - thanks so much for sharing.

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  3. Brenda, this is a perfect insight! I see this all the time, and am always conscious of the way i interact with someone who serves me (probably because i've been on the other side of the counter!). Everyone should have one of these jobs, as a right of passage. the world would be such a nicer place!

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  4. This is a post from April. [April, I'm sorry - I accidentally deleted your comment!]

    Thank you for this post, Brenda! It stayed with me throughout the past week. This, along with the Zig Ziglar quote below allowed me to see people with different eyes. It's amazing to watch compassion change a situation in an instant.

    "Treat everyone like they are hurting. Most of the time you will be treating them in the proper way."

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  5. I have been the server and the clerk and also the person with the fancy title on the business card. The one "big lesson" I've learned is that there is never any reason to be rude. When I look back on my life, the one thing I've never regretted is kindness. Many other acts, but never kindness.

    Everyone deserves eye contact, a smile, a friendly greeting.

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  6. Loved Chris Brogan's post, Warm the Mug - a nice furthering of this post.

    http://www.chrisbrogan.com/warm-the-mug/

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