The airport has become my school! I could either grumble about spending so much time there or I could embrace it, turn up my ability to notice what is going on around me and learn from it. I choose the latter ... MOST of the time.
While waiting through a 2 1/2 hour flight delay yesterday I witnessed an encounter that I'm going to share with you in hopes that you recognize the power you have to make or break someone's day with every conversation you have. Not every conversation will, BUT any conversation might.
In my hasty packing process (no surprise to those of you that know me well) I forgot to pack headphones. I only have about 6 different pair and how I managed to bring the one purse that doesn't have a pair is beyond me, but ... I found myself with 4 hours to spend in the airport and nothing to listen to music with. Listening to music while I do anything else is what I do.
No worries! The airport has tons of options for purchasing headphones from super cheap to super expensive. For the record, I went for the $29,99 red pair that are surprisingly awesome! As I walked up to the Hudson News stand to check out my options, I saw a woman in a wheel chair waving her hands. I heard yelling. I saw two employees standing behind the counter. One was redfaced and near tears. The other was trying to back as far away as he could from the angry customer and appearing to listen very carefully. As I approached and began to look at my headphone options, I could hear the conversation. The woman in the wheelchair was yelling about several things .... 1) the signage on the blankets was misleading 2) she bought 2 blankets for $20 because it seemed like a good deal 3) she realized she didn't have enough room for the 2nd blanket and brought it back to get her money back 4) the employee that was working could not refund her money 5) she had to wait for a supervisor to come and refund her money and reverse the transaction. "You need to fix this. This is ridiculous. This shouldn't be that hard."
The supervisor listened carefully and then as he reversed the transaction and gave her the money back, he explained that he wished the process were different, but he was following protocol that was set up. He apologized several times. He said he would share her concerns with management. He thanked her for her patience. I thought he handled it brilliantly. The angry customer left still muttering and waving her hands in the air.
Meanwhile, the other employee looked like she wanted to cry. She turned to me and said "I'm so sorry that you had to wait. Can I help you?" I said "Yes, you can help me by letting go of what that customer just did and how it made you feel. You did what you were asked to do. You were pleasant. She will get over it and so will you." She smiled and said thank you. Her supervisor said "I wish that weren't the way things were. I didn't know what else to say or do. Now she is very angry with me." I smiled at him and said "You are not the cause of her anger. This situation may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but you can't take responsibility for making her angry. I watched it all and thought you handled it as well as you could. Some people are just not in a good place and some of us get in their way."
I bought my headphones. They both said over and over how grateful they were that I was their next customer and that they were going to have a better day because I was there.
This story isn't about how wonderful I am. It's about how we all have a choice many times a day. I felt so badly watching this woman's anger make these two people feel so badly - the one employee was completely speechless and embarrassed. There was simply no need to handle the situation the way she did. How would it have looked if she had been kind about the return? How would it have looked if she had taken responsibility to ask more questions in the purchasing process or thought about her packing space before making the purchase? My guess is that she was pretty ticked off at herself for what she did, but it's so much easier to lash out at someone else instead of taking responsibility ourselves and handling the situation with kindness.
Lesson for the day ... no matter where your head or heart is at in the moment, try to be kind. We each have a powerful impact on those around us and our choice can make a big difference in their day!