Attitude

Here in New York State we have toll roads. Sometimes
the toll takers are too busy to take my toll. They have
to make stacks of their dimes and quarters, make sure
the pictures are all facing the same way on the bills, fill
out forms, clean the work area. The result is I wait with
my arm extended, hand holding out money while they
ignore me.

Maybe they are paying back the poor treatment from
some previous customer, pointing out that they are
overworked, irritated for some other reason. Maybe it
makes them feel important or superior. Maybe it is my
imagination.

Once I became impatient, dropped the money, said pick
it up whenever you get around to it, and drove off. I
probably became today’s gossip subject. The obnoxious
driver who couldn’t wait two seconds for service. I felt
embarrassed after I did it. I usually do better than that.

We also have lots of other drivers. Some of them are too
busy to drive the car. They are eating, drinking, smoking,
chatting on the phone, fascinated with something on the
floor or the passenger seat, having an ongoing
conversation with passengers.

Their car will wander from side to side, go slower than
the other traffic, sit for a few seconds after the light
turns green, change lanes or turn without signaling, do
all kinds of aggravating things. Their attitude is obvious.
Don’t bother me, I’m busy.

I have tooted my horn at them when they were delaying
my progress and the response varied from zero to ugly.
It’s hard to blow your horn in a friendly way.

Last week I had an errand on Saturday morning and
decided on the way home to treat my wife to a breakfast
sandwich. I took the drive through lane at a fast food
place, ordered at the menu board and paid at the first
window. At the second window I sat frozen in place.

After sitting for three or four minutes an employee
opened the window, apologized for the wait, offered a
free cup of coffee and said the customer ahead of me
(waiting in a truck up by the door) had ordered twenty
five different items but they were moving as fast as
they could to catch up.

The total wait at the fast food place was several times
longer than the two earlier stories combined. Why
didn’t I get irritated? I certainly had an excuse if I
wanted one. Did my patience have a sudden burst of
growth? No.

It was the imagined attitudes of the toll taker and other
drivers versus the known attitude of the fast food
employee. The first two showed no sign that they cared,
the third did. All three could have been the same with
just a word or gesture that was friendly. It changes the
whole picture.

The lesson I get from this is be aware of the attitude I am
sending. Make sure it is the one I want to send. Make a
habit of being the fast food employee, not the toll taker
or inconsiderate driver. I interact with people every day.
Doing what calms them will give me the best chance at
a successful and happy life.

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Ken