Monday, February 7, 2011

Drive Thru Greetings

This one has been marinating for a while. I typically will become inspired to write, collect my thoughts or views, and while the passion is stirring, I will put finger to keyboard. Not in this case. I decided to put my observational skills to work.

I have really made it a new life practice to become an observer. You may not know I am watching, but I am. It’s a really fun show out there. Something is always going on–something we can learn from or be entertained by. I think that type of vantage point presents itself in my writing. In observing I can steep myself into the flow of what is going on around me, but as if on a raft in a river, I am not in control of the flow, but I can dip my toe in the water as I watch what unfurls around me awaiting what may lie ahead around the next bend.

I first was struck by my newest quandary as I went through a local drive thru. Initially I thought the type of business (a fast food joint-I was getting a breakfast sandwich) would be significant evidence and support to my topic, but that is where I decided to let this one simmer, or marinate if you will.

The greeting was mechanical and rehearsed offering me a selection of something in which I had no interest. It was not human and thus forgivable to me. The human that finally spoke behind the metal screen confirmed my order, mentioned my fee, and then asked me “to move for...”. They always cut off the ending, but I knew the drill.

The robotic routine of the "money taker" already had him in mid-dialogue as he was taking the order of the car behind me while reaching for my precious five dollar bill. He then grunted my amount,took my money, and dropped my change in my hand. His furrowed brow held his eyes that barely met mine. They were not warm. They were tired and alone. A man, a cash register, a headset, trapped in a small box. He missed an opportunity to make contact beyond his confines. “Thanks, you have a great day”, I mentioned as I smiled and proceeded.

My food was waiting on me and “efficiently” pressed into my hand that was just emerging from my window. I guess this is commendable behavior when service should take no longer than 30 seconds. I was given a “Thanks” through unsmiling lips. I replied, “Tha...”, the sliding glass door slid shut. Next!

Hmmm. Okay I will put customer service aside. In businesses that often have annual turnover in their staffing well over one hundred percent, I guess I didn’t expect a hug upon arrival and departure, but it left me wondering is this the norm. Is this where a lot of human contact and interaction is being reduced to? Well, kinda.

I do indeed have people I encounter at certain establishments, as well as friends’ homes in which I feel like I am a celebrity. Like I am loved, or at least appreciated. I will even take tolerated at times. I think we all have those people that make us want to regularly return to where they are. Why? Because when they say “Good morning”, they mean it. When they say “thank you”, you know they feel gratitude. When they ask “how are you”, you know they really care and want to know. The words are genuine and organic.

In my observational pause prior to writing this, I noticed how many instances I encountered “Drive Thru Greetings” from many different people and places. Greetings that left me thinking I would prefer silence to a hollow and rehearsed sub-acknowledgement of my existence. “Did I really need to turn down the stereo for that!?”

I remember one time when dining with my family; we were enjoying time out at a fancy restaurant. Our waitress arrived apparently hurried and exasperated. She made miniscule eye contact and exhaled her “may I take your order?” We ordered. She never looked up other than to nod at the next person to prompt them into ordering. At the end my father asked with a smile, “Do you like your job here?” She replied, “Yeah...sure.” He said, “Well why don’t you let your face in on it?” A smile does help.

I wonder how often we miss an opportunity to make someone’s day by recognizing them. How often do we miss an opportunity to validate someone’s presence by a smile? How genuine are the greetings and closures we bestow upon those we encounter? Don’t we deserve more than grunts, nods, and a nanosecond of pulling our eyes away from a phone or text to engage someone?

I have found through my recent observation, I can change someone’s state with a smile. I create smiles by humbly allowing people to proceed in front of me in line. I can make kids’ giggle with a goofy face. I am on continual alert for opportunities to make someone’s day. All of these people will light up, even if a little bit, and from that, I in turn gain joy. The joy replenishes my ability to continue my efforts. Interestingly too, the more sad, melancholy, or alone I feel, I have found through this practice, the negative emotion leaves me that much sooner. Weird. (But I like it!)

If I ask you “How are you”, I really care. If I say “Good morning”, I want you to have one. If I say, “have a great day”, indeed I hope that is what happens to you. If I say “travel safe”, I truly want your journey unobstructed. And they say that “Thank you” can be one of the most precious prayers you offer to God thanking him for a gift divine. If it is good enough for God, it is good enough for me, so if you hear me say “thank you”..., well you know where I am going. The intention behind our brief greeting is like saying a brief prayer for that person. Hollow greeting, hollow prayers.

When you encounter people, try speaking your greetings from a place of genuineness, and listen to the responses with your heart. Sometimes it only takes 10 seconds to make someone’s day and to make them feel recognized.

And to all of you now, “Have a great day, travel safe, and most of all, Thank you!”

Enhanced by Zemanta


Ardith Haws said...

Thanks for reminding us that we are human and as such, should act humanly! I, too, have thought about the scripted, or at least habitual, greetings uttered by service employees. "Have a nice day." Yea, right. I suppose the one to improve the exchange is me. Thank you, Tony. I appreciate the way you make me look at life.

Tony Anders said...

And Ardith "Thank You" for sharing your time in reading my simple observations! Always a pleasure my friend!

One Woman's Thoughts said...

Hmmm . . . you mean I wasn't the only one that felt I was just part of the conveyor belt as I inched past the drive thru proccess?

I believe that the lack of human sincere interaction makes for sad and lonely people.
A simple smile, a positive comment or a kind gesture can change someone's whole day.

Tony Anders said...

@ OWT - Thank you for popping by. It has been amazing the "hollowness" of the interaction in many cases. I am much more in tune with what I sense from these interactions as well as how I approach others in my own sincerity. Be well! (I mean it!) ;)

ladaisi said...

This is so true! It makes my day when a stranger stops to talk to me or just smiles in passing.

Ladaisi Blog