I always get a great feeling helping people out. It's not really for the thanks, but that feels good, too. I think it's the feeling that I can affect people's lives in a positive way. I try and do that every day with conscious effort. For example, sometimes, people leave the work kitchen a mess. The most common mess I see are spills around the coffee machine, usually sugar or coffee stains. If I am there, waiting for the next cup to brew, I wipe it up. Sure, we have a daily janitorial service that does that, but I like to think I made their life a slight bit easier. If I see trash on the ground, I pick it up and toss it in the next can I pass. I try to be friendly to everybody, saying hello to people I make eye contact with, and I never ignore or treat anyone like they are beneath my notice. Like the janitors around here. They are usually nice Hispanic ladies, which I always smile and open doors for. I always say hello and good-bye to the guards as I walk past the exits, and try and remember the names of those I see frequently (which is no small feat, they have unusual names and thick accents so I never know if I am pronouncing it correctly). I know they are people, like me, who have jobs as well as dreams, hopes, fears, and memories. They deserve to be treated with the same respect as I wish to be treated.
Sometimes, people ask why I do this. "We have janitors to clean that up," they'd say. "Don't say hi to him, he's just a guard, and they come and go." I guess they wonder what the bottom line is, like I have this quest to be a martyr or something. I always have a good answer for this, and it goes, "Well, I feel everything you do comes back to you three fold. So it is in my best interest to make sure good things keep happening. If I am nice to this guy, he'll probably be nice to the next three people he meets, who will maybe be nice to the next three people they meet, and so on. I figure if everyone did this, no one would be angry. I have vested personal interest in people feeling good around me." I fully believe this is true. I also think that, sadly, bad moods multiply larger and faster. In retail, we had a saying that if you treated a customer really nice, they may tell three people, and each of those may tell another person. But if you treat them rudely, they will tell at least ten people, who will tell ten more people.
Have you ever had a rude person just ruin your whole day? Yeah, like that. You could be walking down the hallway, say "Hi," to someone, and they could turn around and go, "What the hell did you mean by that? No, no, don't walk away from me! Come back! You think you are BETTER than me? HUH? Some martyr who says 'hi' like she's some Mahatma Ghandi? Oh, thank YOU Mother Theresa, for stooping to say HI to some poor downtrodden peon. Thank God I chose THIS hallway to be blessed by the Queen of Holy-ass Greetings. Jesus!" I bet you'd be thinking about that encounter for at least a few hours. You may say it doesn't bother you, the person was in a bad mood or something, but for a while, you'll be rather shaken up by that. And if you're not someone who can control their emotions real well, you'll pass on this stress (at least by tone and semantics) to the next few people you meet. They may not know why they feel so awful, but they'll probably act on it.
One day about ten years ago, I was getting a meal from Burger King. The girl behind the counter was trying to stuff my order into a bag that was too small for it. She had everything packed like a backpack before a 6-day hike into the wilderness, and was trying to get the onion rings in on top of all that. "That's okay," I said. "I'll just carry the onion rings separate." She looked at me from below her brow. "What?" she asked. I felt she didn't hear me, so I repeated what I said, in a friendly tone, "I said I'll just carry the onion rings separate, no biggie." She looked exasperated, and said with a sarcastic tone, "Have it your way!" (their slogan at the time), poured the onion rings into the bag, MASHED THE WHOLE BAG with her palm and tossed it to me. The manager, whom I knew (I frequented this place a lot), apologized, and redid my order. But I was mad about it the rest of the day. Later the manager said she had fired the girl for attitude problems, but I was still pissed off for days because of that one experience. I was out of sorts for days. One rude person had this effect on me. And even though I got an apology, knew the manager by name, and got some coupons, I stopped going there for a long time. I remember that because at the time, I was trying to illustrate this to a trainee.
Now take the guy at Blue Ridge Heating and Cooling. He was a friendly, open guy, who talked to me with respect and humor. I was so impressed by his service last year that when he gave me the sticker to his business, I stuck it right on my breaker box. Good thing, too, because I needed him again this year. And again, he was friendly. I will keep calling this guy with my needs until I don't need him anymore, or he goes out of business. He inspired a loyal customer.
Now think about how that applies outside of retail. Think about everyone you meet, every day. Think about coworkers, neighbors, or just the person next to you on an airplane. What do you have to gain if you treat them friendly and with a lot of respect? If you are the impatient type who treats people this way for immediate gain, like "I'll give you $5 if you go away," you'll probably wonder why you feel so used. But if you give and expect nothing in return, you'll end up with a lot of good stuff in the long run. Like my friends, for instance. I help them out, because I know when I need help, they'll be there. And if I never need their help, then so what? I have lost nothing. I feel being good to everyone around you is building a solid foundation for the future of your success in life (or the afterlife, for that matter). It's like an investment.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000488.html