Last week, due to a little procrastination and flakiness, I walked into one of the local copy shops at 5:30 the night before I needed sixty-five sets of 40-page, double sided and bound copies. Despite a 6:00 appointment, I Polly-Anna’d my way on faith that I could get it all done.
Things were moving a bit slow at the 24-hour copy center. Bad attitudes and laziness floated from the three “workers” who looked at the growing line with annoyance.
When it was finally my turn, I bounced to the counter. “How are you doing?” I chirp, hoping to spread some sunshine and turn copy-girl’s frown upside down.
She didn’t respond.
She only raised her eyebrows as if to say, “You think you’re going there? … This is my world. You’re lucky to be in it.”
“Okay … well … here’s what I need.” I point to my stack. “Sixty-five sets of 40-page, double sided and bound copies – “
“Hold on there, lady…”
Did she just call me “lady”?!
Smacking her gum, she asked, “When do you need these?”
“By tomorrow morning at 8.”
“Uh, huh, huh … yeah that’s not happening.”
I look around wondering where I am. Is this a service business? Aren’t they supposed to serve customers? People. Is she scoffing me? And being rude?
“Ummm… Yes. Is there a problem?” I ask.
“You want these tomorrow morning… at 8?”
“Or 8:30,” I add, hopeful.
She laughs, “You need to understand something. It’s not going to happen tonight. Maybe in a couple days. But not tonight.”
I can feel my blood starting to simmer as I remind myself to be nice.
“… so there’s no way?” I ask, giving into my never-take-no-for-an-answer reflex.
“Wow. Okay.” I start to gather my things. “I guess I’ll go to Office Depot up the street.” Then for good measure I announce loudly so everyone in the line might hear, “Yup… I’ll just go to OFFICE DEPOT,” like I’m a 4-year-old mad no one will play with me.
Doubtful, I raced over to Office Depot where a different scene met me.
Like the other establishment, three employees manned the area. Unlike the other establishment, hustle and bustle ruled the day.
The line moved. I was next. Kind-guy looked up through his long hair and motioned to me, “Next.”
I took a long breath and walked up to the counter.
“How’s it going?” I ask.
“We’ve been busy.”
“Sure seems like it,” I reply.
“What can we do for you,” he asked.
I started down my long explanation. “I needed sixty-five sets of 40-page, double sided and bound copies – ”
He listened, helped me figure out the least expensive route, then asked the same question copy-girl asked, “When do you need these?”
I gulped, “By tomorrow at 8 a.m.”
He stood silent.
“Or 8:30,” I offer sheepishly, knowing they close at nine.
He bites his lip and turns to a colleague who happens to be walking behind him. “She needs these at 8 in the morning. Do you think there’s any way?”
Colleague joins our conversation. “Hmmm… The problem is – we would have to get all of it done tonight. And we have several orders ahead of you.”
Nodding, Monte adds, “Usually with an order this size we need at least a day. … I’m just not sure we can do it.” He pauses, still thinking. “But – I can see that you really need these. Here’s what I can do. My shift ends in ten minutes. But, I can check with my manager and see if he will let me stay and work overtime to do this job. If he does, then I can get started and work on it to finish as much as I can before we close. I’m not sure I can get it all done. But I can try. And at least some of the order will be complete.”
“You would stay late?” I ask.
“Sure. You need it done. I don’t have anything pressing going on. Listen, I’m a gamer. I can do that any time. You need this now.”
I stood in disbelief. The young man in front of me was actually forgoing his own agenda in order to meet my needs.
“Wow. I can’t believe you would do that,” I say.
“Well, of course. Like I said, I’m not sure I can get it all done, but I’ll try. … If my manager says it’s okay. He’s not here right now. But I will ask.”
Monte then filled out the necessary paperwork, got my phone number if he had any questions and I left, racing to make my dinner. But not before he could Dudley Do-Right me on my way, “I will do my best to get this done. You can count on it.”
Quite the contrast to the other copy center.
I was moved by his work ethic. But more than that, I was touched. This unlikely young man saw me as more than a task. He saw me as a person. A person whose need he could meet. He put aside dinner, his plans for the evening, his agenda … all to meet the needs of a customer. A person. Me.
So often I let the tasks get ahead of the people. I see my to-do’s glaring me in the face. But Monte showed me, as he put off his own interests to see the person standing in front of him, that there is a lot more to life than the tasks. And more often than not, we should err on the side of people rather than the task. (I could have done a better job with copy-girl.)
Arguably the greatest thing about the earth.
Here’s to grooming an other-centered and strong work ethic, like Monte’s, in our kids and ourselves. The world would definitely be a better place.
Thanks for walking the road with me.