My crummy waitress isn’t amused by my endearing wit and simply writes my order down and moves on.
My crummy waitress forgets the butter on the toast.
My crummy waitress never brings the water I asked for so usually I have to flag down someone else’s waitress and beg her to spare a drop.
My crummy waitress looks utterly annoyed that I ask for extra napkins even though the ketchup is dripping down my chin.
Sound Like Someone Who You’ve Met Before?
When this happens, my first reaction is, “Doesn’t she know she works for tips?”
My second reaction is, “This is ridiculous. I’m not tipping her.”
But my last reaction is always to add 20% to the check, however egregious the service.
I mean, someone would have to get me pretty mad – like, break a baseball bat over my head and insult my haircut mad – before I’d be mean enough to cut their tip.
So what’s the deal? Am I independently wealthy with nothing better to do with my extra three bucks?
Am I Just A Sucker?
But here’s the thing. Anyone who is in a service business knows how tough some days can be. You know how one aggravating, demanding client after another aggravating, demanding client can scorch your scones enough that by the time a nice, accommodating client comes around you don’t have anything left to give.
So I’m sympathetic to anyone who is off their game.
I also know that I don’t know everything.
I don’t know what kind of day my waitress is having. I don’t know how many people stiffed her out of a tip for having red hair or for forgetting the butter. I don’t know that she forgot the butter in the first place because she got some bad news that distracted her but had to show up for work anyway.
My waitress, maybe she’s just a bitch, right?
But maybe not.
And here’s another thing.
What if… a decent tip cheered my waitress up, and the next customer got better service, and everyone else had a better day?
What if… a crummy tip just compounded my waitress’ crummy day and things spiraled down for her and everyone else after that?
The world is full of what ifs. We’ll never be able to suppose them all. But I like to imagine that if we extend a kindness – even when it’s not earned – then we can have an ongoing positive impact on the world.
So I’ll never really know if my tip mattered. And no waitress will ever chase me down in the parking lot to thank me for my generous three bucks.
But maybe… just maybe… something somewhere in the world is a little better because of it.
In case you’re wondering, this has nothing to do with tipping a waitress, really. It has everything to do with stepping out of the center of the universe for a second and extending yourself to someone else. It could be in the form of money, or time, or attention, or a simple kind word.
It Could Be In The Form Of Patience.
Social media is loud. Like, squeeze your eyes shut and try not to peek at the train wreck loud.
And every day people lambaste other people and companies with all the wit and snark they can muster.
News stations love to quote mean tweets. Websites love to embed them. We delight in how cleverly we complain or make fun of someone, even if that someone is a faceless company.
But here’s yet another thing. Somewhere at the other end of that tweet or post or email address is actually a human being. One who may be having a good day or a bad day. One who is probably tasked with dealing with you and me and our snark but who has not set out with the sole intent of making our day miserable.
Last week I tried to sign up for a software service. It didn’t work. The website crashed, my form went into the ether and the experience was a huge irritation. So I did the rational thing. I shot off a terse email to the horrible human being who set out to ruin my day by creating such a miserable website experience.
The only problem was that I got a really nice, helpful reply back from a really nice, helpful human being who was tasked with dealing with me and my snark even though they had nothing to do with the broken website.
It’s not the first time I’ve gotten irritated at “a thing” and taken it out on a person. On the internet it’s very easy to do that. We can take our dissatisfaction with a service, a product or a situation and vent it wonderfully and cathartically without ever considering that we may actually be affecting another person.
But even the worst of the worst of the nameless, faceless corporations still have people working there at the other end of the tweets and emails and calls.
And in our space, the small business space, there is always a person at the other end who is probably pretty invested in the outcome of the transaction.
And they probably didn’t set out to make your day miserable, just like my waitress probably didn’t set out to ruin my breakfast.
We All Have Our Days.
Sometimes we’re cranky. Sometimes we’re preoccupied. Sometimes we make mistakes. We don’t deliver. We fail on our promises. We miss our targets. We forget the butter.
But those things are not the totality of us, nor are they the totality of the people we deal with, even though we may have been dropped into their lives at the absolute wrong time for them to make a good impression on us.
Sometimes you don’t know the whole story.
So let’s make a deal, you and I. I’ll be more mindful the next time some random thing irritates me and instead of lashing out at some random person I’ll send a nice email to customer service or make a pleasant phone call to resolve the issue.
And the next time your waitress stinks, you tip her 20% anyway.
Let’s make a deal to be kind, even when everything in our head is screaming otherwise. Maybe between us we can cut through the shrieking noise and be responsible for a more positive outcome.
What do you say?