To the editor: We’re a little more than a month away from Memorial Weekend, and as that starting line dictates the beginning of summer, I want to discuss something that can be lost in the marathon: Civility, especially in regard to our service workers.
My father always said, “See how someone treats their server, and you’ll know more about them than they’ll ever tell you.” When writing this piece, that’s all I could think about. He gave respect freely and just asked for the same in return. It didn’t matter if they owned a hundred gas stations, or worked behind the counter for one. He didn’t care what you did, just don’t be ignorant.
Job unhappiness is at an all-time high. People don’t want to work. The service industry is always leading the charge in these rankings. Which comes as no surprise for the people in the industry. How can you blame them for being dissatisfied? If you happen to be a part of the manual or “unskilled” labor division, expect to be looked down upon by your fellow human beings. Let alone the long hours, the new culture around the industry, and being susceptible to unjust outrage.
I have worked in the service industry my whole life (albeit a short life), and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be mostly behind the scenes. However, I have still been raked over the coals on occasion. I still remember my first summer on island. A lady followed me across Stop and Shop, shouting about being 10 minutes late to her beach outing, and it was for something I had no control over. (Mind you, it was early morning and sunny. I think she would have survived.)
I’ve bore witness to people who’ve suffered abuse you’d think would be coming out of the likes of Norman Bates than you would your average Joe. I’ve seen the postal worker being demeaned because there aren’t any envelopes left, the sixteen-year-old girl who’s getting yelled at because someone didn’t get their sandwich in time, or even the stocker who’s being ridiculed for the new layout of the store (as if they had any say in the matter), and that’s only to name a few of the island incidents.
Sadly, the bad outweighs the good. Now, that’s not to say there are more bad customers than good. There isn’t. A vast majority of folks are friendly and goodhearted people. The problem is that the bad customers are bad. They stick to you. You will talk about it after work with friends, try and figure out why you deserved that, and you’ll question why you even got into this industry in the first place.
Do you know how many people are working two, three, or even four jobs during the summer? With the lack of employee housing and the need for workers, the number of people taking on multiple jobs to supplement the lack of housing is astonishing. What do some of these people get for it? Verbally accosted by someone who has never stepped in their shoes.
This is an ode to the lady behind the counter working seven days a week, 16 hours a day, just so she can try to possess a fraction of this island’s wealth, or the seasonal employee stocking shelves by day and greeting customers by night, never being able to partake in the island’s numerous festivities. I’m sorry for the others I haven’t mentioned, and I hope this summer fares better for all of you. I want to avoid being pessimistic, but my co-workers and friends keep asking ourselves, “How much more stress can this island take?"
We all have bad days, and I’m far from perfect. I can recall being an absolute a**hole while doing the merry-go-round on the phone with customer service. It honestly had nothing to do with them, but I was angry and wanted someone to know it. I regret that, and when you’re stressed out, you’ll go for the easiest target sometimes. However, once is an anomaly, multiple times is a pattern. I don’t want to be a part of that pattern, and I hope you don’t either.