It costs nothing to be nice.
I was in McDonald's this morning, returning a RedBox movie rental. I've seen a lot more of this place since I started using RedBox actually, and although I don't order food I get to see many other people order their meals. And I am staggered at the way most people treat the staff. Has the milk of human kindness gone off? It certainly seems sour.
When I was young, one of the lessons my parents taught me was to treat people the same way I would like to be treated myself. I believe it's a Biblical reference and it's a good way to live your life, religious or not. No-one wants to be treated like crap, so don't do it. However, in the last month I have been actively taking notes about what I have seen on my travels. I'm sad that things seem to be so bad out there.
There were about 10 people in the McDonald's line this morning. I think only one of them managed to crack a smile at the cashier. Two were downright rude immediately, complaining about the length of the line. The cashiers and food prep workers were flying around at top speed, and it just wasn't fast enough for some people. There was grumbling, shrugging shoulders, blatant staring at watches and tapping of feet. I think most people had to wait around 2 mins in line and an additional 2 mins for their order. Under 5 mins in total. Is that so bad for a complete breakfast? (Well, let's not talk about nutrition, I'm no fan of the golden arches.)
I don't think one person in line stopped to think about what kind of a crappy McJob these people have. They work long hours for low pay and have to do it with a smile on their face. Give them a break.
It wasn't just McD's though. I have seen this everywhere. It seems people can't do a simple paradigm shift and consider the feelings of people who do jobs most of us would hate to do.
When my car was in the shop recently, most customers were ticked off about the wait, the bill, the service, or even the price of the coffee machine: "I should have FREE coffee when my car is being serviced, this is an outrage!" Maybe, maybe not. But screaming at the poor mechanic is not going to help. Talk to the manager, and do it in a way that is helpful and calm. Suggestions sit better when you're not a raging bull.
I saw a woman complaining at my local library, because she was 200th in line to receive a new movie rental. It's a free rental, what do you expect? The library shouldn't have 50 copies of new releases like the local Blockuster, that's a waste of money.
I saw cashiers at Target being treated like crap because people had to wait in line for too long, or that they wouldn't take back an item and give a refund because there was no receipt. Blazing at the staff for upholding store policy is no use at all. They can't change a thing.
I heard on the radio that there were more road rage shootings in California recently. People are shooting each other because they can't get where they want to go quickly enough. Or, someone cut them off. Is that a crime that deserves the death penalty?
I'm aware that road rage is caused by a build up of adrenaline that can't be released (our primal goal is to get from A to B, so if we're stopped, we want to get out and run...but, we can't). But we're smart, we have brains, we should be able to work it out and calm down. I know I've become angry from time to time, especially when I was late for a job interview. But I'm not going to pull out a gun and cap someone for cutting in front of me in an exit lane. It's annoying, but it's not worth getting so worked up over.
I think we have become an entitled society obsessed with instant gratification. And to me, living large should not come at the expense of other people's feelings. You may never be this way, and if you are a good person, good for you. But even if you occassionaly find yourself getting really angry with someone for something that is almost certainly out of their control, stop and take a minute. Think "would I want to be treated this way? Would I have deserved to be treated this way?" Put yourself in the other persons shoes, just for a second. And then maybe, just maybe, if we all do this we can live in a world that's less angry, bitter and on edge.
Below are links to two books I've been reading. They're more about being nice in a business world, but many of the lessons they teach apply to all aspects of life. You can get them through Amazon or order them through your local library at no charge. They've helped me look at many things very differently. Maybe they can do the same for you.