The plastic credit card clattered on the mussed counter. Without saying a word I pointed at the reader and waited for the owner to get the message, pick it up, and take responsibility for her actions.
The above scene has happened to me far too many times to be an anomaly. I don’t care how your day is going; there is no reason to be rude to someone legitimately helping you. The level of disrespect certain people give to the folks who make our everyday lives possible through their service is, quite frankly, shocking. The ability for youth, but even for adults who should definitely be able to interact appropriately with others, to look servers in the eye and treat them as equal human beings is seemingly dying.
While this is currently a fact, it is not true for everyone. I, for instance, as well as most others who have ever worked in retail or food service for even a short stint, tend to be very friendly even when afflicted with some sort of mood-altering malaise, because we understand how much of a difference one smile can make.
Now, I’ve seen too much disregard from all strata of the populace to find class as a total explanation, but there are definitely some groups more to blame than others. On F&M’s campus, it’s as simple as observing students in the bookstore. I have found that especially athletes here (one of the culprits of the opening clattering) don’t seem to care. Does this speak to a certain type of upbringing? Do athletes here tend to be from a certain area of the U.S.? Cultural gaps may also be to blame — people who are used to a different way of life will probably default to that way wherever they are. But that brings up the question: why doesn’t the whole world have a standard of kindness?
Other times it is surprising both who is nice and who is horrible: the grizzled old man with the snaggletooth is highly appreciative of your sunny disposition, yet the smiley mom somehow doesn’t have time to acknowledge the cashier handling her expensive purchase.
Many don’t know that other students are employed at the bookstore, and, surprisingly, this fact does change how they interact—although in my opinion it shouldn’t. It is easier to get along with people who are like you (the old Chemistry adage “like dissolves like” comes to mind) but that doesn’t mean no effort should be taken to bridge gaps between unlike people. There is nothing “wrong” with someone because his or her occupation dictates to sell things to other people. At the end of the day, and even during the day, we are all people in this equation.
It just seems like this genuine human interaction is somehow beneath certain people to the point that it doesn’t take up even one neuronal firing of consideration in their buzzing brain of obviously more important ridiculousness. I’m not old enough to remember a “golden age” of service chivalry, but there is no way the world has always operated on the heels of assholery. I’m not getting paid enough, and neither were the servers before me, to just sit back and smile at the plucky, over-important teenager blinking at me in annoyance regarding my normally-paced ringing abilities.
It comes down to the golden rule: treat others how you wish to be treated. If you throw your currency at someone and don’t validate his or her questions with any kind of intelligible response, don’t get upset when the person you just insulted returns the favor.
To be honest, rude people do sometimes make things more exciting; these interactions provide fodder for gossip amongst us lowly retailers as well as honorable games such as how long the transaction can remain silent and other versions of not being very helpful until prompted otherwise. Unless you are okay with us making a game out of your actions and laughing as you waddle out of the store, just be a decent human being and interact with your species.
The road to a better person begins with just and wise actions, and the road to a better world slowly but surely begins with a genuine “please and thank you.”
Questions? Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.