I consider my Uncle Jeff a mentor. We have both worked in media and entertainment, and we share a brain. However, he does have 20+ years on me, so I often seek his counsel. He told me his two rules for life.
Know Your Audience.
Be Kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
It’s no secret that in recent months and years, the world has gotten a little…well, nastier. There are a litany of reasons for this. There’s the 24 hour news cycle, and our current political climate. There’s social media, with algorithms that show you people who have your same point of view, rather than getting insight from the other side. And related to that, there are countless “keyboard jockeys” who will say anything and everything, emboldened by the lack of face time and the anonymity of the Internet.
Over the weekend, I had the honor of standing up in a dear friend’s wedding in Memphis. While I wish we’d been able to do more sight-seeing, we did make it to Graceland. John Stamos narrated the tour on a tablet, and we got to see everything from cars to planes to the famous “Jungle Room.”
After a great weekend, we headed to the airport for our 6pm flight. A girl soon sat down at the table next to us. She was headed to Charlotte on the same flight as us, before heading home to New York. She told us how she’d gotten into it with TSA (she was pulled aside) and a flight attendant on the way to Memphis. “Welp,” I thought. “That’s New York for ya.”
The waitress came over to take her order, and she asked for a burger, medium rare. The server told her they can’t do medium rare – only medium, medium well, or well done.
“I don’t understand what’s so difficult about medium rare. Is it that big of a problem to do that?”
Now this pleasant Memphis server was either having a bad day, or could not deal with this sudden onslaught of attitude. Or both. She said “Imma get my manager,” and left. The manager came over to see what the issue was, explained that they can’t serve medium rare due to health code (a common rule in many places), and she maintained the attitude. “Oh, well I don’t understand why she couldn’t have just said that.” Well, maybe if you had given her a chance instead of snapping at her, she could have.
This presented a delightfully awkward rest of the meal as we tried to distance ourselves from her, and the original server had to awkwardly walk past her to get to us for the check, etc. As someone who’s worked in customer service, I have no patience for someone who treats employees poorly. Sometimes I’ll even speak up, as I had to do at the post office a few weeks ago.
It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend, about 4:30pm. I wanted to mail some souvenirs from our Hawaiian Honeymoon to my parents. Now, the post office near our house in the ‘burbs is notoriously slow. I walk in, and there is a woman haranguing the supervisor there. She’s going up one side of him and down the other, ostensibly over a package she didn’t receive. Seven customers stood waiting in line as she demanded the name of her mail carrier, which of course he can’t legally disclose. He was basically telling her she was out of luck, but she continued. As the mood got more and and more uncomfortable, I finally had to speak up.
“You know, the sooner you leave, the sooner the rest of us can get service.”
She then retorted with something about her issue and why she was so upset, pushing the boundaries of decorum further and further. At long last, she got the supervisor’s name, threatened some sort of report, and started to leave. I called after her, “Finally! Now the rest of us can get taken care of.”
I won’t print her two-word reply here, but the second word was “You!”
“Right back at ya,“ I retorted. “Have a GREAT weekend!”
I’m a pretty low-key, easy-going guy. I’m a people-pleaser. But one of my biggest pet peeves is people who abuse those in the customer service industry. It’s rude, selfish, and uncalled for. And maybe, if we put the same amount of effort into saying something nice, as we do holding on to anger and rage, the world can be an incrementally better place.
Again, be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.