Having worked in Citi's customer service branch during my summers home from college, I was reminded just how difficult Christ's command is to follow. Adhering to the business credo "the customer is always right," often required a great deal of cheek turning for insolent customers. I'm quite thankful that I only had to endure that job for a month or two each summer. If that were my career, I'm rather certain I'd be a full fledged misanthrope or lunatic by now. Or both.
I say all that to segue into an experience I had this afternoon at CVS. When I went to the check-out line, there was only one cashier working, so I just took my place in line behind a mother and her son, who looked to be about four or five. After a minute or two, another cashier came and opened up the other register. Not noticing the mother, who was thumbing through some Valentine's cards a few feet away from the line, the clerk called for me to come to her register. Before I had the chance to explain I wasn't next in line, the mother yelled at the cashier, "I'm next in line!"
The clerk, a bit embarrassed, said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were in line."
The mother lashed back, "Well, why don't you try asking instead of just assuming I wasn't in line?!"
**Note: If the cashier has to ask if you're in line, then you're probably not in line.
The mother marched her son up to the counter to pay for the card he had picked out, all the while still ranting about the clerk overlooking her. The son was extremely courteous, saying things like "Here's my money, ma'am" and "thank you very much." The cashier complemented the little boy on his manners, and the mother jumped in with "You should learn to be that polite!"
At this point I half-expected the cashier to jump the counter and pummel the mother Chuck Norris-style. I seriously thought about speaking up, but it's probably best I didn't since the only sentence I had formulated in my mind was "She said she was sorry, lady, so shut up." The cashier only replied, "Ma'am, I apologized, and I'm not going to continue talking about it."
She went on to chat with the boy a bit, who told her, "Happy Valentine's Day!" on his way out the door with his mother (still steaming, of course).
Two things struck me from the experience: the cashier's patience and the boy's politeness. Now, I realize it's the cashier's job to be polite in any circumstance, but I can think of several occasions during my stints at Citi when I replied to rude customers with a verbal fist. I'm sure the cashier's complementing of the boy's manners was intended partly as a jibe toward the mother, but still it was done with a great deal of politeness (What's the verse in Proverbs about kindness toward an enemy being like heaping coals on his head?) and more insinuation than I would've used--I would've gone with something like "Well, you sure are polite. I guess your dad must've taught you good manners." But that brings me to my appreciation of the boy. Seriously, where did he learn to be so polite? Was his mom just having a bad day? (That happens to everyone, but in most cases people will acknowledge it if they realize they've been idiots--"I'm sorry. I'm just having a bad day.") If the mother is always a bellicose loudmouth, then how long can the boy retain his innocent demeanor? The optimist in me hopes that sometime this evening when the mother is at home, she'll reflect back on the encounter and learn something from her son and the cashier. I know I did.