Something Old, Something New

It was spring of 2014 when I sat at a McDonald’s table. My laptop buzzing loudly, my fries on my tray with a half eaten McChicken, I stared hard at my laptop screen with my word document of a paper that was barely started. It was a research paper I was writing, something that wasn’t uncommon for me as a college English Major. I remember the time so vividly because when I first walked in with my backpack slung on my right shoulder I noticed an elderly couple sitting at a table immediately to my left. They were drinking coffee and talking to each other like best friends. No one else was sitting inside, but drive-thru buzzed with car upon car. “I need another Big Mac for that order.” I could hear the manager shout to the kitchen as he was preparing the bag of food for the car at the window. I slowly approached the counter where the girl smiled and asked me what I wanted. I gave her my order and then nestled myself into a booth by an outlet. Pulling out my laptop and my notebook that had sloppily written notes on several pages. My laptop groaned as I turned it on. My order number was called and I grabbed my food. Then I set out to work.

I was about a half hour into writing my paper when I heard the elderly man go up and ask for more coffee (I was fairly close to the counter as that’s where the booths were, kiddie-corner from the ordering counter). His wife stood nearby not to far from my booth, and when the husband walked back to her he gave her her cup and they proceeded to go out the second door (one would have to walk past my booth to go out this door). I was watching them as they were shuffling their way out, and the husband looked at my laptop and to me and smiled. I smiled back.
“So you working on school work?”
“Yes sir. I’m working on a research paper for a class.”
“Ah. Wow, you must be a hardworker.”
I was curious as to how he could make that conclusion by only seeing me working on my laptop. “Well, my mom and dad tell me hard work will pay off in the end.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“At UW-Green Bay.”
“Ahh, okay. I know a professor there. His name is ___” (I can’t remember the name as it wasn’t a professor I was familiar with)
“Oh, I’ve never had them as a professor. I study English.”
By this point him and his wife had maneuvered their way to my table.
“Do you want to become a teacher.”
“No actually. I like editing and writing, so I’d do something with that.”
“Well that’s not a bad thing either. We always need writers.” And that old man smiled at me. Then without hesitation him and his wife sit down. Right there at my booth, as if I had invited them there like we were old friends. I wasn’t annoyed or scared, just kind of taken back by their willingness to want to sit down with a young person and have a conversation. Like it’s something they always do. Like there wasn’t a fifty or sixty age gap between us. For the next hour and a half we talked about many things. Science. Marriage. Food. Coffee. Politics. Religion. Cities of Wisconsin. It turns out the old man is from a city that’s probably half hour away from my house, the old woman is from Green Bay. In that short time span I learned a lot about them, and they learned quite a bit about me. I didn’t even care that it took into my writing time because it felt nice to just be able to connect with a generation outside of my own.

That story crossed my mind yesterday as I sat in a McDonald’s drinking my coffee trying to figure out some tax information. I procrastinated hard core this year in getting them done earlier (surprise…not like I don’t procrastinate everything). I was just getting the software downloaded when this old man was taking off his jacket at the table in front of me. He was alone. I smiled at him as he looked at me and he noticed my baggy grey sweatshirt I was wearing.
“Green Bay huh. You a fan of Green Bay.”
“No. I just went to school there.”
“Ah, where did you go to school?”
“Uw-Green Bay.”
He then started telling me about this famous and great coach that went there–Tony Bennett. Now I don’t know exactly who that is, except that I would pass by his picture on our “Wall of fame” in MAC hallway. I knew of him. This man pulled out his smart phone and spoke into it, “Tony Bennett” so he could show me all about him. Yes, a smart phone. It was an interesting site. After talking to me about sports for some time, he introduced himself as Larry*. Turns out, this gentlemen worked at the same place as my dad does now and actually lives next door to my dad.
“Small world” I say.
And for another three hours this gentleman and I talked about a multitude of things. I learned his granddaughter committed suicide last year. I learned his ex-wife was a drinker (which is why he divorced her) and that she drank herself to death. I also learned he was an avid antics seller on eBay. At one point he thought he asked me if he was boring me to death. I told him no, but I would have to leave for work soon. He asked me where I worked and if I liked it. In the end, before we departed, he told me to stop over anytime, he loves company.

It so interesting how a simple smile can turn into a three hour conversation. The simple things in life sometimes have a way of being more important than they’re given credit for. A smile towards a stranger. A hug for a coworker. A “Hi” in passing. It all adds up to something more meaningful. It’s so cliche to say it, but it’s so true. In the end, yeah sure I might have to prep my time a bit more precariously to get stuff done, but in the end I could have made that old man’s day. And quite frankly he made mine.

So even if you feel like your insignificant (I often times feel like I am), just remember you aren’t. A coworker might have wanted to commit suicide but because you went out of your way to message them “Hey. Can’t wait to work with you today!” could really can brighten their day.

Remember to smile and carry your head up high. Because you are a rockastar. #bless

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From People Watching to Smiling

Now, don’t take it the wrong way, but one of my favorite hobbies that has developed over the years has been people watching. I find people fascinating, intriguing. Every single person is different in their own way. Eyes, hair, shapes, height, skin color and the list goes on.

Off topic:  I’ve been an official employed college graduate for almost 2 months now, and with my job I get to talk to guests on the phone, not necessarily interact with them one-on-one. So, it’s been a little hard for me personally to interact with them because I am an inter actor via motion, not voice. By this I mean that I base what I do off of body cues not tone of voice, because to me tone of voice can be very misleading. I hear another one of my coworkers on the phone and sometimes I think she sounds annoyed when that’s just how she talks in general (and maybe she is annoyed). I always think I sound too fake happy when I’m talking to a guest because if I just talked in my ‘normal’ voice I probably would sound sarcastic or bored, when I am fairly monotone in how I talk. 

Tonight at work:  I got a little worked up tonight as I was trying to figure out some math for a guest, and I started crying (yes, again for the upteenth time…) and no, praise God, it wasn’t while I was on the phone, it was as one of my supervisors, Kirk*, was trying to help me with math (my Calculus teacher in high school always said calculus is the easy part, the algebra is the hard part). After I breathed in to calm myself, I finished speaking with the guest and afterwards Kirk said, “Hey, let’s go get a cup of coffee and take a mental break from all of this.” I hesitated thinking I was going to be in trouble, but the manager jokingly said, “If you take a call you will be in trouble.” So off I went with Kirk down to the coffee shop, and to talk and appreciate about who we are as a company whole.

I marvel as I walk down the hall admiring the paintings that have been so uniquely designed. Kirk and I pass many guests, and greet them, and he mentions a few times “This is what we are about. Do you hear those children laughing? Do you see how happy that child is (he references to the one in front of us hopping as her dad is walking).” I smiled. It’s not about the money, it’s about how are we showing the quality of a 5-star resort. It’s about allowing families to come, be happy, and make some memories. It’s not about how “Gee, I’ve had 10 guests complain about ‘how expensive’ we are” it’s about the excitement of “I’ve stayed there before, and I wanna come back because you make my child so excited.”
I had nearly forgotten how ‘bad’ that last call with a guest was.

As we neared the lobby, people trafficed their way around other people. Kirk and I just stood there, watching the people. Some were wet from the waterpark. Some headed to the waterpark. Some were Pokemon Go players. Some were coworkers. And some looked a little worn from a long day. It’s interesting to see how people carry themselves when they walk. Some walk with their heads up while others watch their toes. I told Kirk how I like to actually make up fake stories for people, like what they did, or what they are going to do, and sometimes even where they came from. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of this hobby.

Alas I was able to get a good cup of coffee, go back to my work spot, and enjoy my last hour of work with a smile on my face because I know that I’ll always have a good day as long as I make it that way. No grumpy guest is going to bring me down. I say this entire long story about my day at work to come to this conclusion: don’t give up who you are and strive to be because one person gets you down or hinders your pathway to success. Take a deep breath and try to get past the obstacle or shove it out of your way and know that you are the champion. Just like frosted flakes is the breakfast of champions, a smile is the world champion because it is the one thing that can make a difference: the way one perceives how I am, the way that it can make someone’s day, the way it can change the tone of voice.

So smile.

*indicates name change