You And Your Vital Providers

All of us sincerely thank those in the Armed Forces who guard our nation, those in blue who protect us, and medical workers who help keep us alive.

Then there are those on whom we depend for a myriad of services such as restaurant wait staff, a clerk in an insurance office, delivery drivers, the plumber who stops a leak, the carpenter who hangs a door, the vet who treats your dog, the mechanic who services your car. Whether you see such people every day, once in a while, only when needed, or just once, each plays an important role in your life.

The trouble is, you see only your side of their existence. On their other side and invisible to you are bosses, suppliers, and sub-contractors on which they must depend, and company, state, and federal rules and regulations they must follow. One slip-up and they can lose their jobs — or worse.

That’s all the more reason for us to establish a relationship with them, a brief and light-hearted something that recognizes their existence and the value of what they provide. It might even help make up for those unreasonable, selfish, and rude people with which they must often contend.

Of course, that calls for something offered in a light and friendly manner. Depending on the opportunity, it can also be a bit wacky and unexpected.

Here are two examples:

You walk into a store on a slow day. There are only a handful of customers. One glance tells you that those at the check-out counter are fidgety, can hardly wait until quitting time. Of course, you could let that pass. Of course, that’s their problem. Of course, that’s what they get paid for. So, you ask, what’s so special about that? Simply this. You have an opportunity to make them feel better, and sometimes that’s enough. You do it this way. If one of them asks you the standard “Can I help you?” you say, “Uh, yeah. I’d like to have one of each, and oh, one more thing (and you say this with a smile) I need all of them gift wrapped.”

Two things will instantly happen. Because you’ve already smiled, they’ll do the same while answering with something such as “Sure, we can do that,” or “How soon do you need that done?” The point is, they were surprised not only by your answer to their “Can I help you?” but also at themselves for having enough presence of mind to play along with you.

Most importantly, they now regard you as being someone sharp enough to detect their boredom and respond to it in a light-hearted way. Sometimes, it’s infectious. One clerk ignored me after I answered the question by yelling toward the back of the store, “Hey, Joyce, didja hear that? This guy wants one of each — and gift wrapped.”

Those in the ranks of the highly professional are also fair game. I went to my eye doctor for an annual checkup and had to go through the usual drill of checking in, waiting in the waiting room, then wait still more in the examining room with the big chair. Instead of sitting, however, I began studying a big chart on the wall that showed all the different parts of the eye. I picked out the smallest part, one I’d never heard of before, and memorized its name.

When Doc came in, I was off to one side when I said, “Hey Doc, it’s pop quiz time, and I sure hope you pass. What does (name of the part I memorized) do?” After a look of confused surprise, he gave me a quick answer. “Good,” I said. “For that, you get a gold star.” Then I walked over to the big chair, sat, and confessed I got the name from the wall chart. Every appointment after that, he began with a laugh while asking what kind of test I had for him this time.

Be ready to be empathetic. You could be the only one that day to graciously provide encouragement and hope.

Now that you know how to do it, it’s only logical to think that you are just the one to give them a lift.