Have you ever noticed how closely children watch their parents?
Let me first back up to a few months ago when we were remodeling our kitchen I bought a new garbage disposal and arranged for an installer to come put it in for me. The appointment was for 9 am but the time slipped by until the workman was an hour late. I had things to do and as I waited for him to come and do his job (which I'd already paid for at the store) I got more and more irritated until when he finally pulled into the driveway and rang the doorbell I was ready to get downright snippy with him.
But the funny thing was that when I opened the door all my rude intentions disappeared. He apologized for being late, saying that he'd drove in from the valley--a good hour drive--and got to work putting in my new garbage disposal. It occurred to me that the mere $50 I'd paid Lowe's to have him do this job hardly covered the cost of the gas for the round trip to my house, let alone the cost of his labor after Lowe's took their cut of the money. He looked tired and worn out but was polite and helpful. In fact, the salesperson who'd sold me the appliance had failed to tell me that I needed a certain piece of hardware for the installation. The workman kindly told me he had extra parts in his van which he gave me for no extra charge. For goodness sake, he probably lost money from the whole experience.
By the time his visit was over I was ashamed at myself for my initial irritation but was grateful that I'd at least had the self-control not to be rude. It surprises me, however, how many times I see people treating those in service-oriented jobs with appalling rudeness. It's as if some people think that if another person is providing a paid service that they're also being paid to be abused. Ticket agents, sales people, bank tellers, coaches, flight attendants, secretaries, waiters, they all deserve the courtesy that they're expected to afford their clients.
I hear complaints that customer service is a dying art but it seems no less accurate to say that the customers themselves aren't winning any points for manners. For example, I've always thought that to wait tables, even in the nicest restaurant, would be a tough job. You're on your feet late into the night, you're always trying to go faster, you're the middle man between the invisible kitchen and the hungry patron and you're often paid primarily out of tips. If the woman bringing me my dinner accidentally messes up my order, given the stress of the job I should certainly be able to cut her some slack. But if I'm rude to her what's my excuse? I wasn't getting my dinner fast enough? That's the way a child would respond, but it's surprising how many adults think that a little hunger justifies belligerence.
Rudeness is never justified. As soon as you stoop to sarcasm, offensiveness, disrespect or even plain old "speaking your mind" you've lost whatever high ground you may have had. If the service provided was poor talk to them about it or don't give them your business in the future, that's your right as a customer, but once you've said something belittling you've committed a worse offense. I've heard someone say that you can tell the measure of a person's character by what they do in private but character is no less defined by the way that one treats those in public who are working for or serving them. What has happened to the Golden Rule?
Which brings me back to my opening thought. Children watch adults and copy what they see. The guaranteed most effective way to teach a child to be polite and courteous is to practice what is preached. All the lectures from teachers and anti-bullying school programs in the world won't have half of the effect of a mother or father who have learned to keep their temper under great provocation.
For goodness sake, a good part of my job is being a laundress, waitress, short-order cook, janitor, chauffeur, tutor, banker, seamstress, gardener and teacher. If I want my children to respect what I'm doing and recognize the value of serving others, a good place to start would be to treat people who serve me with some kindness and respect. So on behalf of waitresses everywhere, let's teach our children that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and a little compassion.
Congratulations to Elizabeth who won the beautiful hedgie mug from Purple Petunia in last week's Saturday Giveaway.
Technorati tags: parenting, motherhood, courtesy