When a stranger is rude to me, I typically make a bazillion rude comments back…in my head. Then I stew for a bit and vent to a couple friends before pushing the episode aside and moving on with my life.
This morning, however, someone was rude to me and my words didn’t stay inside my head. They came out.
This is what happened:
Upon entering a store, I went up to the counter to wait my turn. The only employee, a young man, was waiting on an elderly woman; there were no other customers. The lady had a large order but finally she finished, and Mr. Young Man walked out from behind the counter and over to the cash register to complete the sale.
I waited patiently, wallet open, cash in hand.
Just then another man walked in the store and quietly went over to the corner to look at dry goods. Mr. Young Man finished ringing the woman up, and as he stepped away from the cash register, he spied the newcomer. “Hey man!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t see you!”
The men struck up a jovial conversation as I waited, patience dwindling. And then, to my growing dismay, I watched as Mr. Young Man walked back to his station behind the counter, passing directly in front of me as he went, and began to take his friend’s order!
My startled confusion was soon replaced with heavy-duty fuming. I tried to keep the smoldering flames at bay by searching for some logical reason to justify such blatant rudeness. Perhaps the man was picking up a scheduled order. Or, Maybe he was in a serious rush. Or, Maybe his family was having a crisis and needed some extra special care and attention and the guy behind the counter knew that and I didn’t. Or, Maybe his wife threatened to smash him with a skillet if he didn’t make it back in five minutes flat.
But no, the men moved leisurely, chatted about soup, joked and laughed. They both avoided making eye contact with me which is lucky for them because my eyes were shooting daggers that would’ve knocked them dead.
Finally Chatty Friend With the Skillet Wielding Wife paid and left, and then, as there was no one else left in the store, Mr. Young Man had to deal with me. “Sorry about that, ma’am,” he said, all nonchalant and suave.
“One pound of ground chuck,” I said through clenched teeth.
He was cool as a cocky cucumber as he rang me up and bagged my order, but I was not cool. I was raging, my insides churning, my head pounding, smoke pouring from my ears. At the last minute, as I was stuffing the loose change into my wallet I decided I had to say something though I had no idea what. So I opened my mouth and this is what came out, “So, is it store policy to wait on people out of order?”
“Aw, ma’am. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t see you,” he said, all puppy dog contrite-like.
“Yes, you did,” I retorted.
I looked at him, hard. “What’s your name?”
“David,” he said, smile gone, eyes looking everywhere but at me. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t see you.”
“No, that’s not true,” I said. I picked up my bag of chuck and headed for the door, and then, just for anyhow, I tossed over my shoulder, “I speak Spanish and I know exactly what was going on.” And out I swept.
If there’s such a thing as buyers remorse, then there sure as heck is a thing as speakers remorse. I threatened the poor guy, for Pete’s sake! And in this bad economy, too! How could I have spit such venom, and at stranger, no less? I was flooded with shame.
But then the memory of being purposefully ignored and lied to came rolling back and my chest swelled with pride over my store-policy jab.
And so it went, pride and shame fighting for the upper hand the whole way home.
Now, after much ponderation, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was fine to say what I did but I should not have left all mad like that. If I had just slowed down and gotten a grip on my emotions, I could’ve had a pleasant conversation with the fellow—a conversation complete with smiles and good will, and a bit of etiquette training thrown in for good measure. It might’ve gone something like this:
Well, David, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Jennifer. [Benevolent smile] I love this store, David. I come here often, and one of the reasons is because Bob the Boss has such high standards. [Thoughtful pause, forefinger on chin] I don’t think he would appreciate the new method of customer service you’ve invented, do you? [Warm understanding smile] I’m sure you’re sorry, David, and I’d LOVE to forgive you, but I can’t because you have yet to apologize for what you did. However, [straightening up and slapping counter with palm] I’m fairly certain that this will never happen again, right? All right then, I’m off. [Gathering up bag of chuck and beaming one last gracious smile] You have a good day now, David. Cheerio!
Imagined conversations aside, the next time I go in, I’m going to greet David by name and with a big friendly smile. (I’m big on smiles today.) Then, if I’m feeling bold, I’ll ask if he’s had any trouble keeping the store in ORDER as of late. And then, if I’m feeling really bold, I might even wink.