Check out that flower! Isn’t it beautiful? It’s the first of the season for us, not flowers in general, but rather flowers actually grown from seed. When Holly passed a couple of months ago, the company that cremated her sent with her a packet of wildflower seeds on a paper heart. You plant the heart, and flowers grow. Symbolic and sweet. They finally began blooming yesterday.
It’s a lovely thing, but so what? What’s the point here? Well, it’s a simple pleasure, gardening, putting seeds and bulbs in the ground and watching them grow to something beautiful. It’s something you can come home to enjoy, which is incredibly important when you work in such a high-stress environment as customer service.
I was reflecting on this the other day, of the customers who have really stuck out for making my life particularly miserable, and how important it is to be able to shake their stench off you when you get home.
I still remember getting accused of stealing $20 from a customer because he couldn’t remember where he put it (because he’s an infallible customer and I’m a thieving shopkeeper, obviously). And I remember the time I got flak because a customer tried to return a non-returnable item a day after declining to accept a receipt (smart move). And the time I ruined a customer’s day by daring to run out of stock on two items.
This is just a sampling of the kind of crap service industry workers have to deal with on a daily basis, and that’s just in retail! I know for a fact that call centers, restaurants, and bars have far worse stories than these. That’s a terrifying thought. I was fortunate (in a way) to have worked where I had for as long as I did. The customers were generally good, which in the service industry is about as rare as a phoenix or a jackalope.
Customers excel at wearing you down to the point where you become little more than a nub, leaving you feel worn and useless and borderline worthless. These jobs require immense amount of humility, patience, dexterity, and thick skin, and even the strongest, most honed warriors of the industry find it hard at times to cope with the strain.
This goes for everyone, really, not just service industry employees. We all feel great weakness from time to time. This week has made that fact abundantly clear. Everybody hurts, and it can take us down. This world is cruel and painful, but none of us are alone. Lean on your friends and family. Let them help. That’s what they’re there to do. We’re all in this together. They’ll show you wonderful things, and try to get you back on your feet again.
The important thing is we find ways to strengthen ourselves again. No matter what, there is beauty in this world, and there can be joy again. I don’t profess to know all the answers. I’ve never been so low that I felt like nothing could save or redeem me, so I don’t know what the answer to getting out of that hole is. I know what makes me feel better, and I go from there. Sometimes it’s a good book; other times, a baseball game; and other times, it’s sitting with a beer in my backyard and looking at the flowers that grow there. I know for some people, it’s far more complicated than that, and I wish I understood that better. All I can offer is go into the world knowing that you are loved and appreciated.
-The Retail Explorer