By Suzanne Reisler Litwin
Every once in a while something happens and you suddenly take a step back. Your eyes open wider. You breathe deeply and think about what you’ve just experienced. Or you may have a new awareness “in the current moment.” Not a revelation, but an acute awareness. Similar to, “Oh, this is happening now!”
It sort of feels like when you’re driving a car on automatic pilot, and you suddenly slam on the brakes to avoid something. That slam on the brakes snaps you out of your current mode of thought and you become more aware of everything. All your senses become heightened.
This was not a drastic sudden situation I experienced. It was within a simple setting. It was wildly eye opening. I was at a deli counter, waiting for my turn to be served. They called, “Number 48? Does anyone have 48?” I had number 49, so I had to wait a bit longer. The lady next to me said she had number 48 and she walked towards the server. I wanted to scream “Bingo!”
That’s when I witnessed her awful, disrespectful behavior. Lady Number 48 started to ask for her foods with such words as, “Gimmie…, or, I want…, or, Get me…, or, That, that… ”
Then she used sentences like, “I don’t want that if it’s not fresh. I said I wanted this, not that. Don’t bother, that’s gross, Gimmie more of that now, Get me something else now.”
Then she got the attention of the server by tapping her long red finger nails on the glass counter. She tapped and barked loudly. Tapped and barked often. The tapping on the glass was irritatingly clicky and curiosity-causing for all the surrounding customers.
I couldn’t wait for her to leave. It was like she came in like a tornado, made a mess, and left. I thought, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Lady Number 48!”
Towards the end of her barking, she asked for a dozen chala rolls. “I want them brownish on the top, separated three per bag, stacked one on top of each other. Bark. Bark. Bark.”
The she looked at me and said, “I want to separate them into threes so I can freeze them.”
What I wanted to say to her was, “I want you to say please and thank you and be polite!” But, I didn’t. I just smirked at her instead.
Then she said something I didn’t expect, “Don’t you just love chala rolls? They are so soft and delicious, and they smell so good. Who wouldn’t like a fresh chala roll? I’m going to eat one on the way home.”
DING DONG! That’s when the moment hit me on the head!
The way Lady Number 48 treated me was so differently from the way she bossed around the server. She treated the server with such disrespect, perhaps because she was on the other side of the counter. On our side of the counter, she was quite nice. Why was the server treated so poorly? Why did the counter divide her behavior? People who serve, truly care for other people and want to give and provide. There was some form of prejudice within these exchanges.
It’s so easy to be polite. Please and thank you’s go a long way. As my grandmother always said, “Dear, you always get more bees with honey!”
Perhaps Lady Number 48 should be more like a chala roll in the first place; soft, warm and delicious. As she said, “Who wouldn’t like a fresh chala roll?” People who serve behind a counter are there to please you and give you what you choose. They are not standing behind the counter to be treated poorly. The counter should not divide your behavior…ever.
This is true for every counter, may it be a deli counter, a car service counter, an airline counter, or a postal service counter, etc.
This is not to say that when problems arise and you need speak to someone at a service counter…I just hope you won’t forget to be polite. What I am suggesting is that the counter should not divide your behavior.
Getting back to Lady Number 48…
She left with her rudely requested food, perfectly divided chala rolls, and the door didn’t hit her on the way out. She went on her merry way, probably to be rude again to the next service person. I hope she will read this article and reflect on her rude behavior towards others.
As for me, I hope when I grow up I will be like a chala roll. I will be soft, warm and delicious, I will smell good and people will like me.
Suzanne Reisler Litwin an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban newspaper. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her 3 children, Allyn, Taylor, and Duke and her husband Laurie. Suzanne contributes regularly to West Island Blog under her column “Keeping it Real”. Please visit her website www.suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.