I always smile at cashiers. I ask people how their day is going. I try not to talk on my cell phone if I’m checking out at a gas station or grocery store. I’m always nice to waiters, and I apologize if I have to send something back. I say thank you. And I say yes ma’am. They’re called manners, people. Didn’t your mama teach you any?
My mom certainly taught me to always be friendly to everyone. Strangers, acquaintances, everyone! I don’t think this is solely a Southern thing, some people are just nicer than others. But there are certainly differences from region to region. People in Chicago certainly don’t smile at each other on the street like people do in my hometown. (I’ve learned this is because if you smile at a homeless person this can be interpreted as an invitation to ask for money or start a conversation.)
Recently, I’ve become more aware of my ‘extreme friendliness’. To make extra money, I work in the box office at the theater where I’m interning. This isn’t my first job in the customer service field, but I’ve never gotten so many compliments before. I’ve had tons of people telling me how friendly, helpful, nice, etc. I am. Isn’t that my job? Why is friendliness deemed unusual?
However, niceness does not always encourage niceness from others. I recently had a patron on the phone who wanted nothing more than to release all of his frustrations with our theater.
“I’m sorry sir, but I don’t make any decisions regarding the theater, I was simply returning your phone call because I thought you wanted to reschedule your tickets. No, I don’t have the authority to give your account a credit. No, I did not make the decision to postpone the opening of the show. I’m sorry for the rescheduling issues.” This went on for exactly 9 minutes and 48 seconds. And I just allowed this man to release his verbal abuse even though I had nothing to do with any of it. But I was nice. I apologized. I promised to follow up. In my mind, I wanted to tell this man to go to hell and if he wanted to stop coming to see our shows that was perfectly fine with me. But I didn’t. I was nice.
I would never in a million years be so rude and outwardly angry with a person who was simply doing their job. Being truthful is one thing, but this man was simply hateful. But in true Southern gal fashion, I just put up with it and smiled. However, after I had this conversation, I told my friends about the giant prick who called in at work today. Just like if a waiter is terrible, I will discuss all of their shortcomings after leaving the restaurant. Or if a cashier isn’t very friendly, I will wait until I’m safely inside my car and mumble ‘Rude!’ to myself. And that’s what you call manners!