This week, I’ve decided to write my column around a pretty simple — though extremely necessary, as of recent events — take: Respect services and maintenance workers, as all they do is work to make your life easier. That’s pretty much it; it’s not complicated nor is it hard to understand. Still, I’ll draw it out into a full column for those of us that need reminding.
In a similar sense, I’m pretty sure most of the origins of my losing-faith-in-humanity comes from working in a local restaurant in my hometown throughout high school, and returning to that job when on break from college for multiple years.
Yes, I certainly made some lifelong friendships with my coworkers while working at that restaurant. However, I’m pretty sure all of those friendships are some form of trauma-bonding from dealing with customers together over the years. You name it, we’ve experienced it; I’ve been yelled at, talked down to and at least once a week had to call my manager over to calm down adults twice my age, because they didn’t like that I merely repeated a well-established rule of the restaurant (that I certainly had nothing to do with creating, of course) to them.
Of course, working in a restaurant doesn’t necessarily lend itself to seeing the best in people. When people are celebrating big life events — anniversaries, weddings, birthdays, baby showers and more — they want these events to be perfect. Hence, this tends to bring on a lot of stress, and the customers are therefore not necessarily at their best when they’re interacting with me. Not to mention, if they have a specific idea about how they want the event to go, and I have to relay the fact that restaurant policy in some way conflicts with their plans, I can completely see why these interactions can get tense, for lack of a better word. It’s okay to want something to be perfect. But still, there is no reason to yell at a teenager already catering to your every need when a small detail needs to be changed. And doing so shows the lack of value we attribute to customer service and maintenance worker jobs as a society.
Working in customer service or maintenance is often a pretty thankless job; this goes beyond restaurant work. Think about the people that stay to clean up after you have the time of your life at a concert of your favorite artist, or the call center worker who helps you with a complaint about a product or company. In jobs like these, you need to deal extensively with the general public in its full range from pleasant to unpleasant, often while not getting paid a lot to do so. The least we can do for these workers is to appreciate them, and show them with our actions that this is the case.
So how do we do that? Careful, the answer is so simple it might shock you: We treat service and maintenance workers with respect. This involves verbally expressing appreciation for their work, and doing our best to not make their jobs harder than they have to be. For example, say hello to the bus driver when you get on, and thank them when you get off at your stop. Thank the dining hall worker that manages the computer to swipe you in so you can eat, and the dining hall chefs that make your food. Grab the door for the maintenance person working on your building when they’re struggling to carry all of their supplies in.
And on the topic of not making these jobs harder, perhaps we don’t need to destroy a significant portion of campus when the basketball team wins a national championship. By all means, celebrate if you truly #BleedBlue and that’s your thing. Really, I don’t even care that university property was destroyed — though I struggle to believe students won’t end up being the ones paying for damages in the end. Still, the damage to our “beautiful campus” doesn’t really concern me. However, I do care that there are a lot of workers out there cleaning up today. Their jobs just got a whole lot harder because of a bunch of drunk college kids in a crowd-mentality, and that isn’t okay. Truly, it’s an abysmal lack of respect.