My grandma raised me not to be impolite. Please and thank you were some of he earliest parts of my vocabulary. Later on, in 4th grade or so, I took “manners lessons” at the local woman’s club. I learned all sorts of useful skills like ballroom dancing and which fork to use. Apparently, I was a rebel even back then, because I couldn’t figure out what steps were what and which spoon was appropriate for your sorbet. The one takeaway I got from these lessons, and it has stuck with me all these years later, is being polite never goes out of style.
Rude people really rankle me, especially if one is in a perceived position of power over another. As in, being rude to a sales clerk or server. I never understood how people got their jollies off treating people like dirt in the first place. If you expect this person to assist you with your transaction, they should expect you to treat them with a modicum of kindness and respect. These folks are my kindred spirits.
I’ve been working since I was 14. I liked having my own money, and it gave me the ability to buy my own records and concert tickets. The career opportunities available to most 14 year olds in 1980’s Salt Lake City were rather limited-babysitting, waiting tables or retail. Over my lifespan, I’ve done all three with no shame in my game.
For whatever reason, there are those who look down on folks in service industries as less than because of a job choice. When I was a waitress, do you know who the worst tippers were? Evangelicals and people who drove expensive cars. Some of the more religious ilk thought leaving a Bible tract was a perfect tip. Thanks, I’ll try to pay my bills with one. Oh wait, I can’t. Bills, records,books, clothes, food, travel all require money not pamphlets. People I went to high school with looked down on me for working in a supermarket, but I made good money for a teenager, I learned the power of a union and I learned some pretty important people skills. Watching people like them treat people like me like dismissive dirt makes me livid.
The flip side is when you’re on the receiving end, you really can’t say anything back to the rude customer. As much as you would want to, you can’t, because it could cost you your job. There would be times I’d leave work with my stomach all knotted up because some housewives needed to rip apart a 17 year old cashier. This is one of the reasons (other than planting seeds of kindness where I go) when I have had a “wow experience”, I’ve searched down a manager to let them know how great their employee was. I’ve brought in cookies for the staff when I or my mom has been in the hospital. It’s not much but it’s a way of being thankful and kind. We could all use a lot more love in our lives, and gratitude is so punk rock.
As an adult, I’m not so far removed from those days. I know that in a heartbeat my whole world could change. I also know that if I had to go back to that world, I could without any issues. We live in a very unstable world and its been teetering on an economic precipice for almost a decade. Things could change and I know I’ve got a backup plan.