This article appeared on the Chicago Parent website where I was a regular contributor.
There are so many things to teach your child once you become a parent.
Don’t put things from the toilet into your mouth.
Say please and thank you.
Don’t bite the neighbors.
We work so hard to teach our children to do the right thing.
Eat the right foods, wash behind their ears.
But are you teaching your children to be polite to people who help you every day?
The nice people who scan your grapes at the grocery store.
The wonderful humans who protect you from getting stabbed on a plane at the airport.
The beautiful beings who mop up the pee you dribbled off the floor of the public bathrooms.
Yes, there are people who do that, in case you weren’t aware.
I meant the mop it up part, not the dribble part, because we all dribble from time to time.
I am ultra sensitive to this type of conversation because I worked in retail for 14 years.
Two years at a fast food restaurant in high school and 12 years consecutively at a department store which will remain nameless.
Because sometimes you couldn’t “expect great things.”
Oh, there were some good times, I mean, it couldn’t have been all that bad for me to stay at the same department store for 12 years straight.
But it was hard work and truly a thankless job.
Kind of like motherhood at times, really.
Only, as a mom, I don’t get a cool time card and stock options.
After years of cleaning up after people, whispering retaliative responses under my breath and basically being at the beck and call of humanity, I figured I was ripe for the picking of being a mom.
But I made a vow to myself that I would instill a respect in my children for those who work in careers of service to others.
Because after 14 years, I realized that this isn’t something that is instinctual.
Please don’t say, “It’s their job” when referring to picking up after yourself.
My teenage daughter knows, KNOWS that mama gets crazy mad if she leaves anything laying on the floor or in the fitting room.
It has been ingrained in her pretty little brain that retail is tiring and that her mom worked many a year in retail, including the nine months she was in my belly and I form a strong bond with everyone in any store/restaurant/airport in America.
I may or may not have had an employee of Target do the slow clap when she heard me reprimanding my then 10-year-old about throwing a shirt on the floor after deciding not to buy it.
Give a training service worker a break. This doesn’t mean to sigh loudly while tapping your foot.
When you work in an office environment and are new to the job, chances are you don’t have all 50 members of the office staff standing in your cubicle asking you 10 questions about where the bathroom is or HOW LONG IS IT GONNA BE BEFORE YOU GET DONE WITH THAT EMAIL??? or yelling at you because you are going to slow.
In a service industry, you are at the mercy of the public, even when you are learning the job.
This is why I could never, ever work at a Starbucks.
I give those people mad props.
Seriously, if it were so easy to make coffee, espresso and lattes, THEN WHY AREN’T YOU MAKING IT AT HOME?!?!?!
You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, so the saying goes.
If you yell at the server at TGIFriday’s about how weak your Electric Lemonade is, chances are there is going to be more than just lemonade in your next drink.
When you work with the public, it is stressful and when things get stressful in a service industry, most likely you are working longer, harder and faster.
Mistakes are going to be made, so understanding that going in is going to help you with your delivery if things do go wrong.
So the next time your fries are cold at McDonald’s, you didn’t get the 20 percent taken off your purchase at Target, you got a diet coke instead of a lemonade at Olive Garden, remember that employee is a mother or a father.
An aunt or an uncle.
A sister or a brother.
A daughter or a son.
They are doing the best they can, they are human and for goodness sake, be nice.