Sunday, January 23, 2011

Making Kindness Contagious in "About Thirty Minutes"

Have you ever considered the power of a smile and a kind word?
Last night Em and I went out for our weekly "date night." Red Lobster was the restaurant of choice, and as we walked in my enthusiasm of being there soon faded away due to the amount of time that we were going to have to wait. Thirty minutes was the time given until we could be seated.. I have worked in a restaurant for seven years so I know that if the hostess tells you that it will be "about thirty minutes," then this typically means that they have no idea how long of a wait it will be. They throw out the thirty minute time frame to either exceed your expectations by seating you faster, or to use the time as a scape goat after you don't even realize how long you have been waiting. Judging by the crowd in the dining room and the lack of parking space (yes i calculate those things in my head when I go out to eat. It's a manager thing) I knew that it was likely that we would be waiting for quite some time, and most likely longer than thirty minutes. I would have easily walked out the door but I knew that Em really wanted to eat there so I decided to tough it out.

Waiting Room Strategy is a "talent" that I have mastered over the years. When you are in a restaurant lobby or waiting area and all seats are taken, it is important to find a spot to stand that is close to the seats that will soon be available. When someone gets up, which they are likely to do since they have been there longer than you, then it is your opportunity to swoop in for the "seat-steal." You cannot do this from the other side of the room. That is why you must stand near the seating not walk outside or use the bathroom, you could be standing for much longer than thirty minutes!

After we put our name on the list and we were told that it would be "about thirty minutes," we cleverly positioned ourselves next to the seating area. It took about 5 minutes before buzzers were going off, peoples names were being called, and seats were now available. There were other patrons who also seemed to have mastered the art of Waiting Room Strategy, so we were not able to get two seats together at first. Patience is key! A few more minutes went by and another set of seats became available. I told Em to go ahead and sit down and that I was going to wait and see if any of the older ladies were wanting a seat. (I'm old fashion. I can't help it!) There was one spot still open next to Em and I was considering taking it when two women in their late 50's or early 60's walked up to the seat. "Is this seat taken?" one of them asked. "No go ahead," I politely urged. After being assured by her friend that it was ok to sit in the available seat, a woman who looked considerably frazzled sat down. She was wearing a red jacket. Another set of buzzers went off and more seats became available. I then encouraged the other lady that was still standing to go ahead and sit down where she liked. One of the ladies said "There's still room for you if you want to sit next to your wife or...I'm sorry, your girlfriend." (I guess we still look young!:) "No it's ok, I'm fined standing" I responded. After my statement, a couple of other ladies walked over and filled the remaining seats. "You've got a very kind man, not many people do that anymore," one of the ladies told Emily. At this point I was thinking "Oh great, now I'm the poster boy for chivalry. I'll never be able to sit down now!" A dialogue soon began between Emily and the two ladies and I later joined in.

We soon found that the lady in the red jacket did not like going out. She thought that most people in restaurants were generally hateful and rude, an insight that is not to far off base. She was urged by her friend to go ahead and go out for dinner and  she promised that she would have a good experience. "Look at what this boy did here," the lady said to her friend in the red jacket. "He gave up his seat so that you could sit down. Not everyone is rude." Em and I both knew that this was the perfect opportunity to go "overboard" with kindness. We talked with the ladies about the weather, Hawaii, and the fact that these two had been friends since they were fifteen years old. It wasn't long until our buzzer went off (approximately 28 minutes) and we were about to be seated. "Have a good night," we told the ladies as we began to walk to meet the hostess. When we got to our table, Em and I immediately began to dissect our conversations with the two women. We both noticed how the demeanor of the woman in the red jacket had changed from when they first sat down until we had departed from them. She went from not wanting to be in such a chaotic environment, to talking to two complete strangers about her life. We won her over. We killed her with kindness!

Think about the people that you encounter, not just in restaurants, but throughout your day. You never know who has been having a bad day. Someones hours have just been cut by their boss and the challenge of paying bills and providing for their family weighs heavy on their minds. Someone is on the verge of divorce. Someone carries they shame of what they did with their friends last night. Someone is still mourning the death of a loved one. Someones kid didn't come home last night. Someones child is very ill. Someone has hit rock bottom.

No matter who it is that you encounter, it is impossible not to smile when someone else shows interest in your life. It makes you feel comfortable. No one ever complains that someone is being "to nice" to them. People appreciate kindness. It increases their level of self-worth.  Kindness is contagious. When was the last time that you infected someone? 

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