Thursday, March 15, 2007

Acts of Service

Today it was distinctly less springy than the last 2 days. I wore a Hawaiian shirt anyway. I believe the weather should match my mood, not the other way around. Yesterday Boy was job-shadowing me. Although we could visit career fields that interested us, we had no such program at my school. I would have enjoyed it. His school has it as a grade requirement, and the students have to spend at least half a day with an employee and answer specific questions. Well done program, and it was fun for both of us. We went out to lunch at the local burger joint (which used to be a railroad depot, then a dentist's office, and now a restaurant). Good food, very friendly if not flawless service (sometimes things need repeating, but it's a short walk to the kitchen and the waitresses are so nice it's impossible to get frustrated), and cheap prices. And, it's the only sit-down joint in this little town (besides the dark & smoky saloon). It's frequently frequented by the same old-timers who have been in town their entire lives, farming or raising families or keeping businesses. One grumpy-looking codger shuffled to a corner table, and before he plopped his wrinkly butt on a chair, the waitress had his drink on the table with a smile. He hardly acknowledged her exceptional care and service. It got me to thinking about how and why people serve each other. Back in my pizza days, we had a customer who was, shall we say, a regular. I'd answer the phone and give my 20-second speech thanking the caller for calling and would you like to try this or that special today? The instant I was done, he'd say, "Yeah, this is Earl," and hang up. Within 15 minutes, he'd have a piping hot medium pepperoni-onion-beef pizza at his doorstep, with a Coke (no ice). He paid $15 for a $9 meal about 3 times a week. We drivers jockeyed to get that run, and everyone worked together to ensure he got perfect service. It wasn't just the money; he was genuinely a nice guy who liked to keep things simple for himself and everyone else. We had other customers who tipped exceptionally well, but they were such insufferable plicks that nobody wanted to deal with them if at all avoidable. I think people generally want to do nice things for people. It feels good to make someone smile, and in many cases it's a requirement if you want to earn good money. Motivation is a tricky thing to me. I always want to think only the noblest of motives are present in me, but I know better. People always do things that are in their perceived best interest - even unpleasant things. Whether that interest is preserving a sense of righteousness, loyalty, or duty - or simply looking good, feeling good, or being in control, all activities produce some kind of payoff. Whether it's worth it is another matter. Some folks, however, make me want to either a) avoid them; b) poke them in the forehead with a pointy stick; or c) sic a skilled SpooNinja on their sorry asses. I don't mind getting the bird if I cut someone off in traffic, because cutting people off (no matter how unintentional) is frustrating to the cuttee. But if I've gone out of my way to be kind, gracious, and generous - and then get the bird - that sucks. I take that kinda stuff personally. Ever had someone who couldn't pay you enough to be nice to them?

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