A couple of weeks ago I got a trim and got my hair toned. My hair stylist is pretty awesome. Steve was recommended by a friend of mine because he’s not only talented at his job, he’s a pretty cool human being.
After my appointment, I left my usual tip but realized I hadn’t seen him since before Christmas. He’d mentioned earlier about how he was dying for a coffee so, after checking with him to make sure he liked the place, I gave him a gift certificate I had on me to a coffee shop in addition to the tip as a belated Christmas bonus.
He was super surprised and seemed happy to receive it and I was super happy to have brightened someone’s day.
This past holiday season it was really important to me to spread around some of the windfall that’s found me since I got a proper job. I’m by no means particularly wealthy, but given it was the holidays and I’d gone from unemployed and unfortunate to employed and lucky, I thought it was prudent to show some appreciation to the people who work hardest during that season: Everyone In the Service Industry.
It’s not like I’m giving away comically large cheques, but if giving an unexpected box of chocolates to my dry-cleaner with a smile and a thank-you for their hard work and prompt service might brighten their day, why not do that?
Obviously I can’t afford to do this all the time, but I think it’s nice to be able to do every so often.
Sometimes it’s not even a matter of giving something tangible.
Sometimes it’s something as simple as taking the time to smile and make a human connection for a second before you go rushing off.
I remember working in the food service industry and being constantly floored at how pissy people would get over the simplest things.
You’re going to scream at me because your burger isn’t instantly cooked and ready? Really? Why is your poor patience or time management my problem?
We all have bad days, I get it, but it takes so little to try and brighten someone’s day.
I feel like there’s a level of respect that people may not have had but used to at least have to PRETEND to have lest they be publicly looked down on. I feel like we lost that and I’m not sure it’s a good thing we lost that.
I’m not saying that we have to act like we’re from Stepford or be followed around by the Shame-Nun from A Song of Ice and Fire when we fail to do so, but I think we need to put a bigger effort into being considerate of those around us.
Taking time to forge a connection, I think, is really good for everyone involved.
I like to stick with the same hair stylist when I find one I like because not only do I get the hairstyle I want, I enjoy getting to know the person.
Due to my laundry facility situation, I go to a particular laundry service every couple of weeks and I like chatting with the people who run it because they do a great job and it’s important to me to invest in that value on a personal and business level.
I guess what I’m saying is, I am a creature of habit and I like to reward good honest work with respect.
Taking the time to forge that connection…to me that’s a manifestation of respect.
I was always happy to see regulars at the fast food joint I worked at when they took the time to forge that connection.
The older man who would ask me my opinions on things in the news, the woman who had a very particular tea order but would always ask about my day, the construction foreman who would order in Franglish to help me better my French.
They were the reasons I was able to get through the customer who threatened my job because I called her out on her racist behaviour to a colleague, or the parents who said to their kids “Do you want to work fast food all your life like her?” (I was working, you snobs, your kids should count anyone with steady employment as fortunate)
I think forming these kinds of connections was easier when the world was smaller, when our options were more limited, when we lived in smaller towns. You don’t really have a choice in that instance.
If you’re from, say, Bitsyville population 1,000, everyone’s going to know you’re an asshole if you aren’t pleasant to Bob who works at the local Diner. They will all know you lost your damn mind over tomatoes being on your sandwich when you asked for no tomatoes, even though everyone knows you’re not allergic and it was an honest mistake. They will know and they will think you’re an asshole and they will probably laugh about it with each other and maybe even tease you about it.
If you’re from a big city and are rude to Bob who works at a Diner in one part of the city, no one but you and Bob may ever really know or care. Or if you don’t acknowledge Bob, he’s not going to take that as an insult and you and Bob won’t form a connection and both of you will be fine for it but maybe you’re both missing out.
I guess all I’m saying is…if you go to the same Diner in the big city every so often and Bob is your waiter most of the time. Acknowledge Bob. Just say “Hello again, how’re you?” You don’t have to know Bob’s life story but maybe when you come in, Bob says to himself “Ah, a regular. They’re pretty easy to get along with,” and maybe Bob’s relieved. Maybe taking the time to acknowledge Bob makes you feel a little bit better because being greeted by a friendly and familiar face is just intrinsically lovely. Maybe you and Bob have a better day because of it.
So, in conclusion: Get to know Bob. Bob seems great.