I don’t do much business at the post office. I dislike lines and it’s rare that I mail anything that requires more than your average postage stamp. If I’m really honest about it, it’s rare that I mail anything at all. I came in today to mail a package I should have mailed to my mother months ago, because I didn’t have a choice.
The line wasn’t too bad; I knew the woman in front of me from somewhere and we chatted, so the time went by quickly. When it was my turn, a friendly woman with a gentle voice called me to her window. She smiled, and you — standing directly behind her — smirked. I asked if I needed an address label, and you laughed at me and told me that it was 2016, and the writing now is done directly on packages. I asked if I needed a Sharpie, or if a pen would do, and you laughed again as you practically threw a pen at me.
I guess I’m so used to being treated that way that your actions directed at me failed to sound like the screaming alarms they should have been, because I look back now and realize that at that moment, subconsciously, I was so uncomfortable that I wished I could disappear.
The woman may have sensed my discomfort, because she stepped in and attempted to walk me through the mailing process.
And I saw the reality standing before me.
It was obvious that she was a new employee, and that you were either her manager or simply tasked with training her.
And bless your heart; I think you were doing the best you could.
But the tone I’d all but ignored when it was aimed at me became unbearable as I witnessed you demean this kind woman, out loud and in front of the public you are paid to serve.
I thought I would use this letter to point out specific instances where you interrupted her, or responded to a question with ridicule and sarcasm, or glanced conspiratorially at me as if to get me to silently agree that she was incompetent.
Honestly, though, reliving the experience threatened to ruin my mood, and I’m not going to let you do that twice.
In one day.
Instead, I’d like to tell you the way this customer experienced your new employee.
When I started to be embarrassed by your attempts to be funny at my expense, I offered to step aside and fill out the addresses so as not to hold up the line. It was then that she finally spoke to me. She told me to take my time and not to worry about it, and my heart slowed down, and I could breathe.
No matter what you threw her way, she maintained a smile. She did not betray you in any way. I would have been tempted to roll my eyes at my customer if you were training me. I was tempted to serve you up a little truth right there at her window, as it was.
But instead of stooping to your level, I tried to raise myself up to hers.
You see, I understand how it is to work with the public. I waited tables for many years. I worked a window at the DMV. I know the job can harden people to other people, and I hope this doesn’t happen to your employee, because she’s perfect just the way she is.
Anyone can learn the rules, and statutes, and processes that come with a government job. That will come with time. The important part of working with the public, though, isn’t something that can be easily taught. Treating each person that approaches your window with respect and dignity is an invaluable skill and you are lucky she chose to accept the position she did.
And you should be grateful for the opportunity to teach her the ropes.