A little note goes a long way
January 8, 2004
I’ve been dealing with a lot of visitors to our area lately in my job at a local resort. I find myself becoming a fascinated observer as I respond to people whose behavior can become downright babyish when a situation is stressful.
I’ve seen a 70-year-old woman stomp her feet, and I’ve listened to a man fabricate lies to exaggerate his complaint. It’s a challenge to listen to someone telling you half the mountain isn’t open, when you know that only six runs are closed.
One thing that helps me to deal with unreasonable people are a few notes that I have posted by my station.
One note tells me “Don’t take it personally.”
“Oh yeah,” I remind myself, “it wasn’t my personal decision to close the mountain too early last year.” Closing in mid-April had nothing to do with a lack of snow or a lack of business, according to this knowledgeable guy from down below.
Since the customer is usually convinced that he’s right and we’re wrong, I will try to listen and figure out if there’s anything I can possibly commiserate with him about.
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“That must have been frustrating for you,” I hear myself say as I glance down and check the fortune cookie message taped below the counter that says “You have an important new business development shaping up.”
Another note that helps me says “Remember their bad day didn’t start with you.”
Maybe they have sat in traffic for hours and the dog got sick in the backseat. Maybe they didn’t plan on having to deal with the inconvenience of snow and crowded restaurants and having their credit card declined. Maybe the reality of a family holiday vacation while stuck in a condo has worn thin.
Sometimes people are so mad, they can’t possibly pose for a season pass picture with a smile on their face. I take their picture with a click of the mouse, and I hear myself say, “OK, that’s good,” when I should really be saying, “Good enough, I guess.”
Another note posted near my computer tells me: “Surround yourself only with people who lift you up.” That’s kind of hard at the moment, I think, but very shortly, I will climb a snowy road to my home, eat dinner with my family and sit in the hot tub.
I must be afflicted with sudden memory loss about what’s important in life when I’m being accosted by unhappy people because otherwise I could just store all these ideas in my head instead of having to post them where I can see them.
There’s one note that helps me most of all. It was hand-written in golden ink by my youngest child.
For years I have been writing notes to my kids and sticking them in their lunches. Mostly, my notes have been instructions, such as “Ride the bus home after school. Love, Mom,” but I know I’ve included sentences about how I hope their day is going or how special they are. Sticking notes in lunches is mostly a by-gone era for my family, since both my girls now make their own lunches. I’ve never thought much about those notes because after I’ve written them, they leave my memory, and I move on through my day. I have never asked one of my kids at dinnertime “Did you get my thoughtful note?”
So the surprise I felt when I read the note my daughter wrote to me the other day tells me that my notes over the years probably have made them feel loved, maybe when they needed it most, like I do sometimes at work.
While sitting in the break room the other day, I reached into the lunch bag that my daughter packed for me, and there was a folded piece of paper with the word “Mom” written on it.
“Dear Mommy,” it started. My youngest is 12 and the days of having my children call me “Mommy” are fleeting. She told me that she hoped I was having a fun day, and she reminded me to smile. My children have watched me across the counter at work and have told me that I don’t smile very much. She signed it, “From your loving dauter (sic).” Everything was spelled right except the word daughter, and my first realization was that I couldn’t possibly go home and tell her that she had misspelled one word.
After lunch that day I taped her note up along with my other reminders and affirmations.
For the most part, I look across the counter at appreciative guests who are full of grace and good will. But when that grumpy customer comes along, I can glance down at my notes, which help me keep my perspective. In an instant, I remember that there’s someone out there who loves and understands and respects me. In fact, she even hopes I’m having a fun day.
Katie Shaffer is a Truckee resident. Her column, Life in our Mountain Town, appears every other week in the Sierra Sun.