I was a server in the food/alcohol industry for a little over 5 years and it has definitely taught me a thing or two. Other than mastering the art of bullshitting, knowing how to make a killer cocktail, and being able to balance an ungodly amount of dishes while maintaining a smile—there is also something I took away from the job that has come in handy more often than the rest.
That thing would be how to deal with ignorant, entitled, overbearing, or just plain rude, random people.
You have not really tested your patience levels until you have had to serve a table of eight of the hungriest and most grumpy looking people you've ever seen at the end of your 11-hour shift. To top it off, they have brought their two screaming children, it's their grandpa's 111th birthday, and somehow their reservation got lost in the books so they have been waiting an additional unexpected hour.
Let's just say that they are even less excited to hear about the cedar-planked salmon special than you are to tell them about it. And that's saying A LOT.
During lovely times like these, I had to use my preferred mantra: We are ALL God's children.
For me, this mantra reminds me that the same hands that shaped ME are the same hands that shaped THEM. It also releases a large amount of heat from my ears before I used it to steam their plate of vegetables.
But it is a server's job to endure the painstakingly slow hour and a half to two hour meal. All with their best attempt at a smile (which really is just you parting your lips enough to show some teeth). They also must thank them and apologize vigorously at the end of the meal all for a lousy 10% tip—because it was obviously their fault things went wrong. (To read more about the joys of a server's life click here.)
I'm not gonna lie—I would've loved to see their hold-the-cheese-please-but-extra-sauce-and-add-meatballs-but-for-no-extra-charge plate of spaghetti in their laps many times. But, the fact is, there are just going to be random people in life who are going to drive you crazy—batshit crazy.
If you would like an extra helping of these kind of people, then I would suggest the food industry. Or any form of in-person customer service.
I'm sure the people at the DMV have plotted actual murders in their minds while talking to the public. We should really cut them some slack. I mean would you wanna spend your days behind those bars? It would probably push me to the point of ending up behind a different set of bars. Stay in college, kids.
But you don't always get the pleasure of only running into those kind of people just at your place of work.
Nope. They pop up like unpleasant little surprises just about everywhere.
For example: The woman who is forever in my beloved 15 items or less express lane at my local grocery store with 15 times 15 items in her basket. ( That's 225 items which equals 210 ways to piss me off.) And she always ends up glancing up at the sign—or at the 3 items in my arms—about halfway through her buy-in-bulk basket and says: Ohh no! Am I in the express lane?? I had NO idea! Silly me.
Lady. You are the only thing standing between me having my way with this bag of Hot Cheetos, God-given bottle of red wine and box of tampons—I could think of a few words besides "silly" to use.
But I don't use those words. Instead I clench my teeth and offer a small smile and say: No worries. I'm in no rush at all.
Because, really, I shouldn't be. Even when I am late for something, (which is 90% of the time) some lady who "didn't notice" that she was in the express lane shouldn't have the ability to ruin that part of—or my entire—day.
There are people out there that are going to interrupt you, disagree with you, overstay their welcome in your home, leave an empty roll on the toilet paper holder, let their seat belt warning ding for the entirety an hour long drive, tell lies about you, underestimate you, short cutter peanut butter—don't forget the jelly—you, and on and on and on.
And the worse news? There is no escaping them. None. Zip. Zilch. NADA.
Sucky people are as much a part of life as the air we breathe—and just as necessary.
Yep. I said it.
We need annoying people in our lives. (And not just as reminders to how awesome we are. Though it is a plus.) Maybe in the afterlife everyone will talk and think and love and replace toilet paper rolls the exact same way that we do but, until then, we are all in this thing called life together.
These people are our little tests in life. These people really want to make sure we mean it when we say: Wow. I am in a really good mood today. Nothing can bring me down!
Once these words escape your mouth, these people get a ping in their iPhones with your location—they are coming with a challenge and the have selected the route with the least amount of traffic to get there.
But, unfortunately, these people are good for us. And it is really important that we are good to these people.
I am not even going to pretend that it is easy, either. It is one of the toughest things to do.
We live in a world where it is deemed necessary to only give kindness back to those that have offered it in return. But what if we decided to be the first to offer it—and continue to offer it—NO MATTER WHAT.
There is a quote that has become a bit cliché over time, but it is extremely relative to idiots.
"Be kind; For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
I have a theory on clichés: The reason they are used again and again and again is because there is an unmeasurable amount of TRUTH in them. We really are all fighting a hard battle. It really is necessary to be reminded of this 72,000 times in our daily lives.
Maybe that grumpy family never had the luxury of being taught restaurant etiquette or maybe they actually thought 10% was a good tip. Or maybe they didn't! What if my tired smile was mistaken for apathy and the result was a less than great tip. Or maybe they were just unhappy all together or were having trouble with accepting the fact that this probably was Gramp's last birthday dinner. (I mean, not many make it to see 112.)
And what if that lady at the grocery store really doesn't know she is always in my express lane? What if she is so frazzled by the 9 little rugrats tugging at her cart and trying to steal candy that the last thing on her list of cares is that I have 222 items less than she does and that it's that time of month.
What I'm trying to say is this: What if we all just went ahead and automatically assumed that these people are in need of a little extra patience. What if we reminded ourselves of the many battles they may be facing that day? What if we tried to put ourselves in a pair of their shoes that are a lot less comfortable than our own?
And some of them may not be going through a tough time. Some people really are just being rude for no reason.
But that doesn't mean that we should allow ourselves to catch that bad attitude like a common cold!
Consider kindness your cold defense—the vitamin C for attitudes. You should be taking (and giving) doses of it daily! And what happens when someone around us is obviously contaminated? We take extra! So being extra kind to those who are extra sick is really our only defense and, hopefully, their cure.
If none of that kind-at-heart talk works for you, then let me throw another cliché your way:
Kill 'em with kindness.
Simple as that. Nothing pisses off a pissed off person like a big, fat, goofy smile.
So use your pearly whites instead of your clenched fists. A fist may bruise their flesh but a smile will bruise their egos. And I think we all know which one lasts longer.