I certainly don't need to be working at Starbucks anymore. My day job of teaching at San Diego colleges and universities pays the bills and fills my time. But I keep my one shift per week because I enjoy the interactions. Well, that and the free coffee.
Every now and then I'll have a reminder about why working in the service industry gives you such a unique insight into humanity. At times, that insight is negative.
There was Gary, the regular, whose cup was given to me one day with "A," "lt. rm" on it. That means "Americano, light room." I made the drink as written down. Gary came back within seconds of receiving it and said, "Hey, buddy. I asked for two inches of room. Does that look like two inches to you? YOU ARE THE BIGGEST IDIOT I'VE EVER MET IN MY LIFE!" Okay, so maybe I added that last part. But you get the point. I hadn't even made a mistake -- the person who wrote the drink down did -- yet I still was treated poorly because Gary hadn't gotten what he wanted. Maybe he was just having a bad day, but it certainly reminded me that people had a bad habit of misdirecting their rage. (After fixing the issue, I handed him his drink back and said, "I hope your day gets better." He probably wants to kill me.)
But for every "Gary," I get several more people who are truly thankful, grateful, and kind. There's Lu, Michelle, Mike, Rich, Jeff… the list goes on. They always smile, they're always pleasant -- even if things don't go their way.
Today, I had another such customer. This woman had a particularly large order, and she had tasked one of our newer employees with the food items. He got everything right except for the fact that he gave her a Turkey Bacon Sandwich rather than a Bacon Sandwich. This honest mistake could have sent her into a hissy fit.
Instead, she merely smiled.
"I think you guys sliced up the wrong animal."
I laughed as I went over to attend to her needs. Naturally -- as we are taught to do in service -- I apologized. But this woman simply shook her head.
"Listen," she said. "I've managed Costco stores for 25 years. I haven't forgotten humanness. Mistakes don't bother me."
Such a minor interaction. Such an important statement. If only more people would connect "mistakes" to "humanness" rather than to "laziness," "stupidity," or to the delusion of grandeur that thinks "I don't deserve your mistakes." What a wonderful world we could have!
Be human. Make a mistake today. And then enjoy it.
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