Stereotypically, one of the worst places in the world to be standing in line is the post office. Especially during the holiday rush. And especially during the lunch hour.
Yesterday, thanks to the amazing response we’ve gotten on Kamden’s book (spotsthetortoise.com), I dropped by the post office. I had 22 books with me, including an international order.
Surprisingly, only one other person was in line. When it was my turn to approach the counter, the clerk said “are you kidding, I’m not ready for this, I’m too tired.”
Being in sales and serving clients for my entire career, my blood boiled a bit. I took a big breath, smiled anyway and kept my mouth shut.
She began to verbally sigh and “helped” me at the pace slower than Spots the tortoise himself moved.
As she got through two of the 22 shipments, the line began to form behind me. So she said, “our policy is that a customer can only ship 10 items at a time when there’s a line. So you’ll have to move aside in a second.”
My mind’s response was, “Really? No way there’s a policy like that. That policy sucks. I’m about to drop over $100 as your client, and I’m the bad guy. Unreal.” My actual response was a forced smile, a tinge of frustration, and an “OK, you got it.”
She reluctantly finished the first 10 and shoved me aside to help other customers.
I waited patiently, checked my phone a few times, and when she called me back up, I said “thanks for finishing these up.”
“What are they anyway,” she barked. “They’re all books.” “Who wrote them,” she asked.
Boom. Open door. “Well actually my 10 year old daughter did. We’ve sold over 200 of them, and she’s on cloud nine because she’s a published author.”
The woman smiled. She couldn’t believe it. I opened one of the packages and showed her the book.
Six people were behind me in line at this point. The clerk couldn’t have cared less about them now because she was flipping the book page by page.
She used words like: unbelievable, awesome, amazing as she described what she was seeing.
Her hard, calloused attitude melted away because of a 10 year old’s book. And frankly, because I was kind to her.
There are plenty of times when I return a bad attitude with one of my own. When I don’t respond in kindness.
But I’m beginning to see that everyone has a story. That people are doing the best they can. They’re trying to figure it out. Many are in the fight of their lives.
What if we stopped being critical and started being curious? What if we asked more questions instead of shouted more demands? What if we listened more and postured less?
More often than not, a smile and a kind word will add significance into someone’s day. I’m not sure if that woman’s day was better because of our encounter. She may have gone right back to bah humbug after I walked out that afternoon.
But I do know, even if it was only for a minute, she smiled back.