Working in retail it’s very easy to get discouraged with, uh, people. I get very frustrated when customers lack common sense etiquette/basic communication skills. When an employee greets you in a business with a “hello! How may I help you?” an acknowledgement is super appreciated. Or when they call in to the store after seeing our number on their caller ID and don’t bother listening to the 4 minute message we left and annoyingly call back right away “Yeah, you just called me.” Or when they just blatantly have NO clue what they’re doing. “I need vacuum bags. It’s old. That’s all I can tell ya.”
Some days I can handle it and fake my way through. Other days, I’m shocked my employer (who also happens to be my father) doesn’t send me home with a professional reprimand.
This morning, a customer walked through the doors talking about as loud as one possibly can into her cell phone (Biggest Pet Peeve of most retail workers, btw). I could hear her husband yelling in the receiver, “Where the %&$# are you!” She’s speaking in equally offensive four letter words and screaming back at him with disdain worthy of a Jerry Springer episode. And there I am… the employee. At the counter. Watching. Waiting in irksome silence for her to give me 30 seconds of her precious time to explain to me the purpose for the visit. When she finally hangs up she throws her arms in the air, “My husband is driving me NUTS!”
In my head I’m thinking, I so don’t care… I’m in the middle of a divorce and, well, I’m not in a very happy place right now either, kitten. Divorce your screamer and join me in the land of suck it!
I ended up referring her to my brother (It’s a family business in case it wasn’t obvious…) who specializes in what she needed, specifically. I’m in my office overhearing him take care of her and she’s speaking to him in the same residual loud, yelling tone. I’m just about to lose it when she tells Brent exasperatedly, “My husband has dementia. He’s in the middle of one his fits right now… He gets so mean and I just don’t know how to handle it!”
And just like THAT, my defenses dropped.
I saw this awesome painting at my favorite antique mall and I actually purchased it. It’s in the now empty room that used to be
our my dining area. I put it there because it fit perfectly in the space and, also, so I would see it in plain sight whenever I needed affirmation for my “situation”… Unless you’ve been through divorce you really can’t empathize with how painful a process it truly is. I’ve been chugging through the 5 stages of grief like a champ (or not) and, honestly, been so one-dimensional/self-absorbed in the process that I failed to see it in her… I failed to see her pain hiding behind swears and social awkwardness.
I looked at this painting today, as I do every morning before I leave for work, reflecting on my own entitlement. The thought never occurred to me that I was the one that needed to be the kindness to someone else.
Tomorrow morning when I look at my painting, I’ll do so with a little more humility and selflessness. And the next time a disgruntled customer (and it’s going to happen!) gets the best of me, I’m going to remember that they’re experiencing a battle I know nothing about.