“Why don’t you smile?”
I never intended it as a reprimand. I had asked the question of one of the young women who wait tables and serve the residents at Mom’s Residential Facility. The girl was looking particularly unsmiling as she set plates of breakfast down in front of the residents in the dining room. She wasn’t looking sullen, exactly, but she was certainly not cheerful.
Within a minute, as soon as the girl had disappeared into the kitchen, the head chef appeared at my side. She herself is a delightfully pleasant woman, always smiling and happy but she was certainly not happy just then. She asked why I had “called out” her girl in front of all of the residents. She said it was early in the morning and it was hard to smile.
I suggested that if the staff is cranky, their crankiness will spread to the residents. And I felt certain they did not want a whole room full of cranky elderly denizens. She suggested I should have called her aside and spoken to her in private. I told her that was her job, not mine. It was not a pleasant way to start the morning. Should I have kept my mouth shut?
It is true that early mornings are hard for some people. We’ve all heard of someone who must have a cup of coffee or two before they are fit to speak to in the morning. And, certainly, anyone who waits on the public in any capacity is aware of the nastiness from customers to which they are all too often subject.
Airports are often the worst. To maintain a smile and a pleasant attitude in the face of frantic, furious, or terrified customers is indeed a challenge. When I made a comment about a change of gate, (I was smiling, I thought), one angry young steward at an airport in Mexico suggested I find another airline. I guess we aren’t supposed to comment, either.
Secretaries are notoriously mistreated. A grumpy boss can ruin a whole day. Smile as she may (secretaries are almost always women), her boss feels free to be as unpleasant and obnoxious as he likes and expect those around him to accept it and still respond with a smile. I had one boss (I was a draftsman) who threatened to fire me if I didn’t quit being so damnably cheerful in the morning. I didn’t quit being cheerful and he didn’t fire me, but I was more careful from then on.
As technology, and the glitches associated with it, become more prevalent, we are all too often forced to use the telephone in order to resolve problems. Not being able to clearly explain what is wrong with this or that product to someone with heavily accented English in the Phillipines or India makes it doubly difficult. Perhaps not surprising that sometimes my husband winds up screaming in frustration.
Fortunately, some companies are opting for using housewives in North Carolina or Utah or somewhere in the US, to resolve problems. The pleasant-voiced women let you know where they are immediately. As long as they aren’t having problems with little screaming kids in the background, they make great problem solvers.
I was having a particularly difficult time getting access to a university computer system in order to start my semester. I went storming into the computer lab ready to fight. To my unbounded amazement the young lady behind the counter was actually sorry that I was having problems. She commiserated with my plight, helped me through the difficulty and resolved my problem. Within minutes her pleasant attitude had moved me from anger to abject grateful thanks. I was astonished.
My brother often tells the story of the two men hired to walk in a parade behind the elephants and scoop up their poop. The first man hurried about his job with his head down in mortification and embarrassment. The second man wielded his broom and scoop like batons, marching along with a huge smile and waving at the crowd. Applause and cheers followed him down the parade route.
We all too often forget that our own attitude begets a similar response. At a place like a Residential Facility where people are forced to be in each other’s company day after day, it is even more critical to be polite and say “Good Morning” with a smile. When we smile, it almost always gets us a smile in response.
This is even more true if you are one of the wait staff in the dining room. Minimum wage, early morning hours and having to clean up spilled coffee practically every day from clumsy, cranky old folks is hard. But a smile is bound to help. It really does. Try it, you might like it.