A few months ago, I placed an order for a medium coffee and a cranberry-orange muffin, while inching along the drive thru line. They got the order wrong.
The whole thing was a terrible experience. It was horrible, not only because they misunderstood me and wasted my time. It was terrible because they didn’t have what I wanted.
Some time has passed.
I have grown up a little and I own the blame and might even venture to hypothesize that it was probably a combination of my callous attitude, the aging technology that attempted to bridge the communication gap between us, and Steve, the young man who was working that day, in a bright polyester uniform, gleefully earning his minimum wage.
Today, I placed a similar order, and once again, Steve was the person who had the privilege or misfortune of serving me, and this time, everything was smooth and efficient.
I am puzzled though.
Everything went well, but why is it that I still dislike Steve?
I don’t really know him.
From his appearance, I can see a big, lanky kid, with a deep voice and a few misplaced pimples. He moves somewhat awkwardly, and doesn’t seem to handle stress or his customers very well.
The fact remains, I don’t know the first thing about him.
Why do I have such negative thoughts about him?
Why the impulse to get my back up? There is no reason for it, yet I cannot deny the experience.
I am reminded of when I participated in the Colin Sprake three-day business workshop, in early December, called Make Your Mark. We were doing a personal growth exercise and I was paired with an older, well-dressed woman. We had a wonderful chance to connect and share some of our experiences. At the end of it, she looked at me, and said that it was surprisingly a pleasant experience, because I look very intimidating and unapproachable.
This was a revelation, because inside of my mind, I am just a shy juvenile little kid, who cannot wait to tell the next inappropriate joke to cut through the tension of life and evoke a smile.
It amazes me how much of what we see and experience is predetermined by our initial reactions and first impressions.
This means that some of the faults we see, might actually be the opposite. The person we dismiss or ignore might make a great impact on our life.
There is another story here.
At the same workshop, fate kept putting me in the proximity of this older, strange little man. My gut kept telling me to avoid him, yet every time there was a chance to talk, there he was.
I never sat in the same seat twice.
At every break, I ventured into a different part of the room, yet he was always somewhere close, and several times I had felt the internal pressure to be his partner.
I avoided him with every fibre of my being.
There is no simple answer here.
Sometimes our gut tells us exactly what we should do, and we should listen. It will save our life. It has done so in the past. It will set us on course in the right direction. Our gut reaction often serves us well, but sometimes, sometimes, our perceptions are very dreadful.
We need to stay vigilant and become a little more self-aware and observe ourselves as to how we interact in the world. Not so much when we order a coffee, or attend a workshop, but in the way we behave and see our very friends and beloved family.
We need to see them as they are, and abandon our distorted impressions.
They are too important to be dismissed.