Nov 062016

I am definitely a creature of habit. They generally say most people are, but it’s especially true in my case.

For me, habit is very comforting. So much so that one of the habits I developed in hated Toronto, which was the daily purchase of a particular drink they make at Second Cups, was something I so enjoyed that—even though there are only 4 Second Cup locations in the entire Lower Mainland—I will go out of my way to go downtown or even to *gasp* West Van to get that drink. And I’ve been back from Toronto for nearly 5 years, and was only there about 2.5 to start with.

But a big part, possibly the biggest, of getting that drink was that I got it at the same Second Cup location every day, and as such, I was a regular. And if you always get the exact same thing, the staff at a store figure that out. They know how you like said thing made, and sometimes they’ll do really small but generous things for you, like give you the large you asked for but only charge for a medium.

As with most interactions like this, you quite likely don’t know the name of the people serving you, and they may very well not know yours. But there is something special, if you ask me, about just being nice and pleasant with people you see repeatedly but might not know very well. It sounds corny but it’s just nice to be nice, with no expectation other than the person get your order right (which they are supposed to do whether you are a regular or not, or nice to them or not). Front line staff, especially at places like Second Cup or Starbucks, or really nearly any food service place, are faced with so. much. unpleasantness in the form of people being rude or demanding that I kinda feel like it’s my civic duty to try to be just… nice.  Pleasant.  Cheery.

I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I’m the one being rude or demanding. But I think those are by and far the exceptions. And while it may not change the world, I feel like being nice in that small way on a repeated basis just… builds up. I don’t know if it changes the lives of the people working at the places I frequent, but I know it feels like it changes my life. Because it forces me to put myself out there in that I expend emotional energy to be positive and communicative. But I think the benefits of that expenditure outweigh any cost, because it can change the tone of an interaction, a person’s day, or an entire locale. Even if people aren’t perfect and sometimes they’re mean and petty, if they are striving to be generous and present, it just seems somewhat subversive. The functions these interactions accomplish are meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but if I’ve made an effort to be warm and so has the person serving me, I feel like that imbues the interaction with meaning. With purpose.

In sociology they talk about the emotional labour involved in the service industry, and since my job (and most of my career) has been about customer service in one form or the other, I know a bit of the cost of that labour (not very much of it, because my job is much more comfortable than someone’s job at McDonald’s or Starbucks—which I can say with surety because I did a stint at McDonald’s as a teenager). So if people are putting in work to make my mundane transactions pleasant and smooth, isn’t the least I can do to attempt to meet them halfway, and make a similar effort for them?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.1 It’s a very good rule.

  1. I didn’t, happily, learn that from the Bible. []

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