Sunday, July 13, 2008

A minor rant on politeness

I went into the big city of Providence yesterday afternoon (while all dehydrated) to visit the Home Depot closest to where I live. I was picking up a couple of gallons of paint. I hadn't been in the city in a long time and had forgotten how much I disliked this particular Home Depot. I'm not sure whether it's because of it's location (not the best part of the city - maybe they frequently have to deal with people causing trouble - i.e. armed robbery, punks spray painting graffiti in the lawn and garden shop, drug deals going on in the plumbing department, etc.), but both times I've gone there I've had bad experiences with employees being rather rude.

In this latest experience, I walked up to a cash register with no lines. The register had the little lamp lit indicating it was open, and there was a cashier there apparently ready to serve. So, with a gun clearly visible in my hand, I demanded all the cash in the register and the woman just turned away and began chatting with an adjacent cashier! What's up with that? Hello, I have a gun! Pay attention to me!

Ok, no, that's not really what happened. Rewind a bit. No firearms were involved. Same situation, but no gun.

Instead I had two gallons of paint in my hands. When I approached the register, the woman immediately turned away and began to talk to the adjacent cashier. Apparently the other cashier was having trouble looking up a price of something on her register so she wanted the cashier in my aisle to look it up on her register. No problem - I'm patient. However, after 5 minutes (no I'm not exaggerating) of this continuing where she'd look something up, print out some paperwork, look somthing else up, etc., I began to wonder whether the cashier even realized I was still waiting. Not once did she even acknowledge my presence with a "Sorry, this will take a minute," or "You might want to use a different line." Finally, I asked the cashier if I should move to a different line. Instead of answering, she just continued to keep her back to me and just said something like "Ummm...." and it appeared she was finishing up with her side project. Then, when she finally did turn around to ring up my items, there was still no acknowledgement that I was even standing there. No greeting, no thanks for waiting, not even any eye contact - I just got a nice view of the top of her head. She just focused on the cans of paint, told them how much they cost, and then asked the paint cans if she could see their ID because the paint cans were purchasing themselves with a credit card. She didn't even thank the paint cans as they left the store. I should note the paint can carrier (that would be me) did his best to offer a cheerful "thank you" regardless.

Granted, I wasn't in the best of moods at the time, so it could be I took a more negative impression to the whole situation. But, there's something to be said for simple courtesy. It goes a long way.

If at any point the cashier just uttered a simple "Hi, this'll take a minute," I wouldn't have thought anything of the wait. But to be totally ignored - it's a weird feeling that gives the impression one doesn't matter.

But, in the grand scheme of things, I don't matter. So maybe it was good to be reminded of that. Perhaps the cashier was doing her part to teach me my place in the universe. (But don't go using that as an excuse for being rude!)


db said...

I went through the same thing at the Veterinarian office on friday. After fighting off the demons inside me that wanted to make a scene I did my best to make the receptionist acknowledge our presence by being so friendly she couldn't resist! It wasn't easy but I was glad I kept my cool- doing that at a Home Depot, however, is a whole different story- not possible!

shiloh said...

Your final conclusion is right on.
We can't change other people, we can only change our reactions to them. Either for the positive or the negative. You could look at the experience and think, "Boy, what a rude person. I'm never going to a Home Depot again." Or, you can think to yourself, "Boy, I feel bad for this person with such a poor lack of social skills and for the other people she will be waiting on today", and look at it as a lesson in developing your patience. Not easy when you're already in a bad mood but lessons don't usually come when you're feeling your best. I found with working at the library that sometimes people who come up to me with a poor attitude, by being overly kind to them, they actually start to soften up and have on occasion even smiled at the end and said, "thank you". Doesn't ALWAYS work but it has surprised me when it does!!