I witnessed something recently that made me angry, anxious, and sympathetic to the young woman who was verbally bashed by a customer. We were in Starbucks. This man in a suit came in and rattled off an incredibly complicated order. I was standing right behind him. There were fifteen drinks, and all of them needed modifications. He was reading off from a list. It was already pretty busy in there. This poor barista is trying to put in the orders, talking to the other baristas and answering questions when they weren't sure what her notes were, and in general doing a splendid job of dealing with this asshole.
The guy paid for the drinks, an order that was close to $80. Five minutes after he placed the order, he pushed his way to the front of the line and started yelling and swearing at the poor barista. He called her a “fucking cunt”, continued swearing at her, and then told her he was going to tell her manager how slow and useless she and the others were. This poor young woman started crying.
No one said anything. They just ignored the situation. No one stepped forward to defend her. Except for one person. A slender young man who looked to be no more than nineteen or twenty. He asked the man what his job was. The man said he did something at a bank, I don't remember what. The young man asked if he'd ever worked with the customers. The man said he had. The young man asked what he did when someone did to him the same thing he'd done to the barista.
The banker turned red and then started yelling at the young man about how he should mind his own business and what did he think he was doing talking so disrespectfully to a man who obviously made more money than he ever would? The young man smiled, told him he was the owner of the Starbucks we were in as well as two more in the region. He told the man that he was very proud of his baristas and that if he wanted his drinks he'd better go to another coffee shop because he wasn't going to let them do any more of the drinks. They'd only completed four at this point. The man spluttered but was forced out.
The barista and the others thanked the young man, who just told them to scrap the drinks and go on with their day. He told them he'd take care of the man's complaints if there were any. He got his drink and wandered off. By this point I was shaking and the barista could see my agitation. She talked to me since I was the only one still in line as the others filled my order. We commiserated about assholes like this man, which is something both of us had experienced before in our jobs. It was obvious talking about it calmed the both of us down.
I have seen so much abuse dumped on service workers. I was a bill collector, so I can understand the animosity. I don't like dealing with collection companies either. But why would you treat someone who is doing you a service like shit?
How many times have we let ourselves get like this? We let our bad days, our foul moods, get the better of us and we let it out on those who are just trying to help us? On those days, we need to watch what we do and treat them with respect even if we want to bite their heads off. Many times you'll surprise them if you thank them and treat them with respect.
To expand on that thought, it doesn't have to be people who are trying to do a service for us. It's our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers. If we're in a bad mood we take it out on them. We need to take a step back and remember that they're not the reason (well, most of the time) for our bad moods. It's a reaction we have to lash out at those around us when we don't feel good, when we're agitated.
I'll admit I've gotten testy to people if I was in a bad mood and they were doing something that irritated me even more. I've snapped at them, been rude to them, though I don't swear at them I've been inexcusably nasty to them. I try my hardest not to do that because I don't like it when people do that to me. But I still have my lapses.
We need to all be more aware of what we do, how we speak, and how we treat others. If we treat them with respect, we're more likely to get respect back. It's not always a guarantee but it's more likely.
How about you? What do you do if someone irritates you? What do you do to keep yourself from snapping at them?