I’m the kind of person who smiles a lot. I like when a sunny disposition empowers another to smile. I share a smile while ordering coffee, just to communicate to the barista that I mean no harm, that I am sorry for inconveniencing them, and that I know what it’s like to wear their shoes. I keep my distance and make sure not to over-complicate my order. If the coffee isn’t great, I drink it without showing signs of dissatisfaction or complaints arising. A new coffee isn’t worth the initiative; I’m sure the barista is busy with other things, or if not, then they deserve whatever break time they get. Peace of mind is underrated.
When the credit card machine stops working, I apologize, even though I had nothing to do with it breaking. It just felt like the appropriate thing to say. I see a line start to form behind me, and I worry that my order has now interrupted some kind of natural flow. A water stream cut from its source. A snake without a head.
Every service or retail worker has stories of being cussed at, spit on, stressed out, maybe all at the same time. I smile because I know how difficult but rewarding it is to spot a friendly face while behind the counter. I remember creating a radar that judged to what extent people would make my life miserable, based on outside factors. Depending on how loudly the radar blinked, the more misery I would expect. When I say “Thank you, have a nice day” before leaving, I mean it. Not enough people mean it. There’s no replacement for sincerity.
Trust is hard to come by. When your job depends on trusting the strangers you are servicing to not ruin your life, when the cards are in their hands, when your power is limited to wrist-slaps and detentions, you wish it were easier for you to trust people outside of your job. You have trouble telling trustworthy and untrustworthy people apart on first glance. After all, you have enough stories of being yelled at by the one customer you trusted not to ruin your day.
That’s why I make sure to smile, even a little bit. Life is too short to throw tantrums at customer service workers. Smiling is more worthwhile.