Have you ever eaten at one of those places where you’re shown to your table, then someone in a black dress/shirt comes along and says “Hi, I’m –. I’ll be your server tonight.” Their name isn’t really “—“, but you’re so engrossed in the menu that you don’t actually take any notice of anything they’re saying. It’s only when they ask, “Can I get you a drink to start with?” that you emerge from your musings. Well, I’ve had a glimpse of the other side of this picture today.
Mid-morning. I’m on the golf course playing with a couple of young guys I randomly bumped into at the first tee. The weather is so hot that the buzzards are carrying water bottles and the whole of greater Vancouver is covered in heavy smoke. Not the greatest conditions, but we’re managing fine. About an hour into the round, one of the lads asks the other “Is that your ball, or is it, er, um?” He suddenly realises that, in the way of guys everywhere, we haven’t bothered to exchange names. Despite the usual difficulties with their Canadian accents, I learn that their names are Elijah and Bailey.
An hour later, I get around to asking whether they’re on summer break. “Nah, we both work full time at night at a restaurant.” I’m a bit relieved to learn that the restaurant is quite a distance away, and caters for a “younger” crowd, so there’s no risk these guys recognise me as one of “those” customers – you know the ones – “Listen son! I said I wanted apple and pear sauce on my bacon, not pear and apple!” I look at the lads through new eyes. They’re just regular guys like me – well, ok, they’re way younger, and fitter, and they hit the ball a lot straighter, but otherwise just like me.
My thoughts stray back to last night. While we’ve been with the family in Canada, we been watching that gripping US drama – Big Brother. Obviously, I’m not as heavily invested in the show as other viewers, but I can see how those other viewers will be desperately waiting to learn the outcome of the plot that Christmas and Raven are working on with Paul to try to convince Jessica to turn on Cody. What strikes me most, however, is we can feel so connected to a bunch of (spoiler alert) actors who we will never meet, but don’t really connect with the people who help us with little services each day. Ok, so if I just happen to walk into a certain hip joint in Delta, there’s a chance that one of the wait staff will now recognise me and we’ll address each other by name rather than by “Sir” and “—“, but what about all the others?
Here’s a challenge you might like to try. At the end of each day, try to recall the names of at least five people you interacted with that day in a service setting. I gave it a go this afternoon and here’s the result. Pardeep helped when I returned some lightbulbs to Walmart, Zana made me an iced cap at Tim Hortons, while Gwyneth at the next register waited patiently for her customer to finish talking on her cell phone (didn’t impress the long line of people waiting), Hallman cleaned up around the entrance to the shop, Joseph showed me where to find the cooked chickens in the supermarket, and Harvinder served me at the checkout. (Ok, I cheated and wrote a couple of the names in my phone, but you get the picture.)
Like I said, give it a try. Oh, and give special attention to wait-staff because you never know who you’ll run into at the golf course on a hot day.