Month: April 2017

Life in Customer Service

The life lessons just keep coming. I’m starting to wonder when you finally get to the plain where the lessons have all been learned.  Maybe that marks the end of this life as we know it.  Until then, I guess, the lessons will just keep coming.

The last few weeks have opened my eyes to some facts of life that I thought I was worldly enough to know. The conclusions of my observations are that I am nowhere near as knowledgeable about life as I once suspected.  Human nature has certainly taken me by surprise. 

Racism is alive and well in this day and age.  I was naive enough to have thought that, as progressed human beings,  we had put all that in the past.  I was incredibly incorrect but the parameters are slightly different than I would have ever thought.  I have been called a racist several times over the past month.  By me adhereing to the constraints of my new position, it causes me to make choices based on certain member status.  This criterion is not based on anything other than the amount of money spent with my employer.  When someone does not meet that financial level, they unfortunately have to wait for service.  I have found when I adhere to these corporate mandates, I, all of a sudden, become a racist.  

This took me way back at first.  How could I be called a racist?  The decisions are not made on race, yet the words flow freely from one’s mouth.  Other situations have come up and I have been called stupid as well as rude, sometimes all in the same day.  Honestly, at first, I cried.  I felt bad but than I got mad.  The words only come spewing forth once the offended party realizes that things are not going how they think they should. It may not be fair, but it’s hardly a case of racism. 

Didn’t Dr. King protest about segregation and the mistreatment of people due to the color of their skin?  Wasn’t it about gaining basic rights and treating all persons with respect and dignity?  I wholly understand that if I was choosing one race over another to progress to my register based on color, then I would be racist.  But that’s not how it works.  I have to choose my next customer based on a tier system that is open to everyone.  I am not necessarily comfortable with it either, but I do not see it as a racism concern.  Yet, I hear the words ever too frequently.  

I try my hardest to treat every person I come in contact with with the respect that every human being deserves.  Yes, things have happened in the past and still continue today, but I try never to add any more negative energy into this world.  Like most people, I am abhorred by the blatant mistreatment that has occurred to many different races of people.  Unfortunately, I do not have the power to change any of it, but I do have the power to control how I personally act toward others today.  That’s all I can do and I take the responsibility very seriously.

With that being said, shouldn’t there be an expectation of being similarly treated by my fellow man?  Instead I have been talked down to, insulted and generally brushed aside like some unfortunate means to an end.  So many more people than I ever imagined treat the workers of this world as an inconvenient necessity.  Where is the march for food service workers or retail customer service personnel?  The main misconception is that if you are in food service, retail or other careers involving working with the public, you are somehow less human than the rest.  Basic respect does not seem necessary when working with “my kind.”  Since I am so lowly, I cannot possibly have feelings…that’s what it feels like to be ignored and brushed aside.  The overall impatience with the tasks I have to perform have a tendency to overwhelm me.  I’m getting these people a table at a buffet, not getting them to a conference on world hunger.  It’s just dinner….try to be civil, at the very least.

I suggest that every person should be made to work in food service, retail or the janitorial trades once in their lives.  The experience is eye-opening to say the least.  You get to feel what it feels like to be cast aside, spoken down to and basically ignored because of a misconception of who you are and what you are made of based on the fact you wear a name tag.  If every person could experience this, maybe the world would start to see a change in how people interact. The person who is just too busy or just too important to say good morning back, would feel how it feels to be ignored. The person who is just too important to get off their phone during a transaction would feel what it’s like to try to service a customer you cannot even communicate with.  You would feel the wrath of an angry customer who feels slighted and will yell and berate you for minutes because of some minor issue.  

If you think these people do not work hard, try standing on your feet for seven hours straight, being abused by customers, and doing all sorts of behind-the-scenes work for the price of a latte an hour.  Don’t get me wrong….granted it’s not brain surgery but the work is generally long days and the work is hard.  I know what you are thinking…’s a choice I’ve made and that’s true.   That’s not really my point though.  My point is that if we all honestly tried, even for a few seconds, to put your feet in the shoes of someone else than there might not be so much meanness and ugliness in the world.  Let’s face it, we can’t all be CEOs of large companies, someone still has to check out your groceries, clean up the messes, type the letters, and any other varied tasks that need done.  All I ask is that from time to time try to imagine what it’s like for the person behind the counter.  It may seem like a brainless job to you but I can almost guarantee that it still takes some knowledge.

To all the people who have yelled at me that I am a racist because my employer mandates a certain protocol.  Please know I am not racist and the implication is definitely not appreciated.  Please save the terminology for situations where real infractions have occurred. Using the term because you had to wait an extra five minutes to be seated at the buffet does not seem to qualify. Also, please try to spread appreciation to all people. Feeling valued can go a long way to making a person try harder.  And for the clerk who really does not care about their job, well, that’s going to happen. Just try not to yell threats and/or throw things. You never know what a person is going through. 

Let’s all try to be kinder to one another.  It doesn’t cost anything, except a few minutes of your day.  If I let it, this job could very well harden me. I’m making a serous effort to not let that happen.  I want the world to be a better place so I will keep trying. 


Contentment, A Road to Nowhere?

I always said I just want to be content and I’ve strived for that all my life.  Last night, my mind was full of dreams.  All kinds of dreams, some that were work-related, some made sense and others were way out there.  I’m not sure what caused an entire night of dreaming, but they made me wake up thinking about contentment.

Why is contentment only a temporary condition?  Most people strive for the glorious feeling when all the things in your life are aligned and life seems to make sense.  When it is all good.  We allow ourselves to bask in the lovely glow for a short time, then we wait for the next thing to happen that will start us feeling discontent all over again.  Waiting for the next shoe to drop, if you will.  

The next thing always comes along to take us from that perfect place.  Why is life that way?  Why can’t we, as humans, feel content for more than a fleeting moment?  That’s when I started really thinking.  If one is too content for too long, complacency creeps into their lives.  And just what does complacency bring to the table?  Nothing actually.  There is no desire to learn anything new.  There is no need to see anything new because the status quo is working.  

I realize now that we were not made to sit happily in a rocking chair looking at the landscape with total peace.  Sure we have those brief moments, but we were made to accept the challenges set before us.  I avoided the challenges whenever possible because they generally hurt and are not fun.  But it is those life challenges that make us better people if we are open to it.  Don’t get me wrong there are many challenges that life throws at us that seem unfair and sometimes you can get pummeled with multiple challenges at one time.  Some challenges last a short time and are resolved quickly while some linger for what seems like an eternity.  Pain is what many challenges bring and pain is not fun.

But then I got to thinking where I would be if I had stayed cocooned away from the world.  I would have missed a lot of hurt, but I also would have missed out on the feeling of accomplishment one gets when you finally get to kick the challenge in the pants and send it packing.  I would have missed meeting some of the most incredible people.  You can’t meet people when you are hiding.  I would have missed having the chance to grow as a person.  I think back on those dark years when my fear had me convinced I was content but I was too afraid to see I was miserable.  I definitely did not see any growth as a person.  And worst of all,  I would have missed the opportunities to help others.

That’s when it really hit me.  It is the need we have inside to help others that causes us to not be content.  Life is hard for you and me but there is always someone who has it harder.  Sometimes they caused it themselves and sometimes the shoe that dropped was much heavier then one would have expected.  So maybe that’s why the human race finds contentment so elusive.  Because there is always someone to help or some change to be made.  Maybe it is those challenges that keep our blood pumping and our minds always looking for something better.  

I get exhausted some days from the constant looking, looking for that time and space where I have peace and am content.  I think I’ve been looking for the wrong thing all these years.  For whatever reason, my soul is restless but it’s not for peace.  I think, dare I say, I’m looking for the challenges in life. Didn’t I say I don’t like challenges because they hurt?  Yes, I did say that but I was wrong.  I sit complacent and the meaning drains from my life.  I think I’m too tired or too old to jump the hurdles.  But without those hurdles I feel like I’m drowning in mediocrity.  That is the feeling that scares me the most.  I always thought it was the fear of stepping out of my comfort zone when the reality is it is my fear of NOT stepping out of my comfort zone.

That could be why I can’t seem to find what I’m looking for.  Because I’m looking for the wrong thing.  Oh I don’t know. This life and what we are supposed to do with it is so confusing. There are no maps or a GPS to guide us the right way.  The journey is tiring but it can also be exhilarating.  I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much time looking for the wrong thing but I guess it’s all part of the master plan.  You have to make a few wrong turns in life. That’s just how it is.  My experience has not shown me a lot of straight lines from A to B.  Guess that what makes the journey epic. 

Now instead of hitting my head on the proverbial wall looking for constant contentment, I will look at contentment, however fleeting, as a gift to be cherished then move on.  I need to look differently at what I’m looking for.  I hope this path brings me a little closer to where I’m supposed to be.  I feel like I’m in a loop but maybe one of those elusive dreams from last night guided me to this place.  

Changing Attitude, Thinking About The Beach

The beach has never held my attention. I love to look at the water, but it just wasn’t for me.  Today, I’m sitting alone in a new place near a beautiful creek, feeling a little out of place and listening to the Jimmy Buffett station on Pandora.  The soft breeze blowing through the curtains and the lapping noise of the creek have me rethinking my previous judgement on beach living.  Why not the beach?  The warmer weather is definitely growing on me, I never miss the cold, ice and snow any longer.

The mountains completely changed me, but now I am a little uneasy….like another change is imminent. I have this strange and very strong urge to buy a pair of flip flops. I am thinking of trading my work boots in for a pair.  So how does a girl who has hardly ever even worn a pair of shorts in public change her entire attitude toward a warmer lifestyle?

I’m digging the laid back vibes of Bob Marley, daydreaming about drinking a cold adult beverage (or two) while reading “Where is Joe Merchant” (by Jimmy Buffett) and feeling the sun’s rays envelope my skin like a cozy blanket fresh from the dryer!  

One of my biggest problems is that I am totally dedicated to a life full of worry and anxiety.  Those things have defined me for years.  If I don’t have something real or imagined to worry about I actually get anxious and start to worry more.  Hardly a day goes by that there isn’t a huge knot in my stomach.  I stand constantly wringing my hands waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  It is an exhausting way to live.  Sleep is difficult as that is when the panic comes and the days bring no relief.  

Can the beach help me with these feelings?  Can I start a recovery program from my addiction to worry and trade the anxiety in for a life of sun and peacefulness? I have seen many pictures of friends and family vacationing at the beach.  The common denominators are the smiles and the looks of joy. The places my be different and the people’s life situations are varied and complicated but joy always looks the same.  There is something to the sand, water and the sun.

My journey has been about finding peace. I’ve tried different places and different lifestyles. The peace has come and gone.  I’ve had brief periods of it and I really like it. I know now it’s not about things, it’s not about what others think of me, and it’s not about conforming.  It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and trusting that God is opening new and exciting doors. I have to put the worry, the stomach knots and the wringing hands in a sealed box and throw it deep into the ocean never to be seen again.  

Does the beach hold a place for me?  Not right now but soon maybe.  I really need to get my head right as well as my heart. Finally I’m starting to see that all the worry hasn’t gotten me anything but sick and tired. I’ve had nights I wished I would not wake up, just too tired from the constant drain of what little energy I had. That’s all about to change. 

I don’t care where I’m at, but I’m going to live with that beach ideal.  The beach may only be in my mind for now but I can sit by the river with a frosty pour while listening to beach music and pretend the sand is warming my toes. It’s not so much about location as it is attitude.  You can choose to be miserable in the most beautiful place in the world or you can find peace wherever you are. I’m going to choose the latter.

I’m off to get those flip flops.  It’s not much but it’s a start. Maybe one day I will wear a pair of shorts…..let’s not go too crazy. One step at a time.