Thursday, July 14, 2005

On Being Nice to Toll Booth Operators (and Other People Who Provide Public Services) or “How to Make a Difference in 1 Second or Less”

The other day, a friend of mine told me that one of the things she really likes about me is how courteous I am to toll booth operators and people who work in the retail and restaurant industry. I was sort of taken aback by that, but I guess this courteous behavior seems to be disappearing from the larger masses.

Why is it that we don’t take the time anymore to say things to each other—particularly those who provide public services—that only take a couple of seconds to say? Words like “how are you today” or “please, thank you, you’re welcome” or “pardon me” or any of those other niceties that most of our grandmas and mothers insisted we engage in? It only takes a second, really!

I’m not that old, but it seems to me that people are becoming ruder and less considerate of others, not to mention less grateful, as the minutes tick by. What happened that changed us into a nation where we don’t care if people overhear our most intimate or inane conversations yelled into a cell phone while we’re all crammed together into a bus on a hot, humid day? What happened that resulted in our inability to express gratitude to one another for both the little and the big things each of us do for one another every day? How come we’re quick to chew out the cashier, but slow to ask him/her how his/her day is going?

I’ve worked in retail and it stinks. I swore when I graduated from college—which is what my job in retail paid for—I would never forget what it was like to be on the other side of the counter. I can’t tell you how many toll booth operators, cashiers, waiters, cab drivers, customer service reps, and other folks whose job it is to “help” me are shocked when I ask them how they are, thank them for their time, and wish them a nice day. It takes no more time out of my day and the end result is a pleasant experience for me and the other person.

I think the problem is, we think we’re the only person in the universe. We’ve become so self-absorbed, we don’t stop to think that the person in front of us might be having a bad day or might need a word of encouragement or might just like someone to notice that they’re there. The thing is, though, by taking just a second or two to greet someone, say thank you, or wish someone well, we offer a gift and—this is the best benefit—we receive a gift in return in the form of the recipient wishing us the same. I have yet to have anyone tell me to f*** off or go to hell because I said thanks!

Try it out. Take that extra nanosecond of time and say thanks. It won’t kill you and it won’t make you late. I promise.

Thanks for reading this; I appreciate your time and willingness to let me share my thoughts. Have a nice day!

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