Observations on being nice

Something has happened to me a few times in the last few days.  Something that has left me perplexed and a bit disturbed.  It is my normal practice to treat people the way I want to be treated.  That is what I was taught from infancy, an example set by my marvelous parents.  Whether it was passed down from their parents (which I know it was – my grandparents were just as awesome) or part of the Southern/Texan heritage I am so proud of, I don't know.  I just know that it is embedded deep in the fibers of my being.  To be pleasant, courteous or at minimal civil to everyone I deal with.  Do I always succeed – no, we all have our really. really bad days, but the good ones occur significantly more often.

I have noticed more often, recently and especially in the last few days, a difference in my interactions with sales clerks and other service providers – fast food servers and store clerks in particular.  Today for example, I was at the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant (yes, I know it is very bad for me, but sometimes, you are just in that much of a hurry), the server took my order through the little speaker board.  She politely repeated my order to make sure she had it correct, gave me the cost, thanked me and told me to have a nice day.  My response, which is what I generally say to everyone in this situation, was to say "Thank you and you have a nice day".  She responded with "thank you", but it was in a flustered, surprised tone.  I then pulled up to the window to pick-up my order.  Again, the window server was polite, handed me my order and thanked me.  Again, I said "Thank you and have a nice day".  Again, the server was a bit taken aback. 

On the drive back to my office, it occurred to me that this has happened to me several times in the last few days.  I was courteous and polite to someone waiting on me ( just recently, a store clerk, a waitress, a fast food server, a customer service rep with a major cell phone provider).  All of whom were at minimum polite and courteous, some who were downright friendly.  I treated them as I would anyone else and they were surprised and grateful.  I know we complain often about the poor rude service we receive, but do we really stop and think about how many there are of those people in comparision to the total number of service providers we interact with on a daily basis.   Have we also stopped and thought about how we treat these people?  How often do we take an unconcious attitude of superiority?  Or maybe more accurately, indifference.  A "these people are here to wait on me so they should be the one nice to me, not me to them" type of attitude.

It is both disturbing and perplexing that someone waiting on me should be surprised and so grateful that I was nice to them.  When did our society get to a point that it is not a normal practice for everyone to be nice or at least polite?  In my eyes (and in my heart), it is the way it should be.  So I send you out with this reminder, we are all human, we have extraordinary strengths and foibles. The young man serving your fries or checking you out at the grocery store may be a math whiz.  The girl working at the local discount store stocking shelves may be supporting her family working 3 jobs.  Don't these people deserve the same courtesy we extend to everyone else in our lives?  Of course they do.  And maybe, just maybe, if we start treating them a little better, they will start treating us a little better.  The old theory that a smile gets passed on.  Smile, say "thank you and have a really great day" to the barrista fixing your coffee tomorrow morning, then step away and watch how they treat the next customer.  There will be a difference.  There may only be a subtle difference, but there will be one.  And for each smile and courtesy that gets passed on, several people's days get brighter and the circle continues.

So to all of you, I say "Thank you", "you are welcome" and "have a great day" and am leaving you with a smile.  It made me feel better, I hope it made you feel better too.  

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