A few days ago I woke up and got into my morning routine when our youngest daughter woke up, poured some cereal into a bowl and then announced that we were out of milk. My wife's shoulders dropped because she remembered last night visiting the grocery store with our son AJ, and the two of them had three things on the list. They came home with two. And now we were out of milk.
Traci was prepping to take CJ to the farm to pick up her 4H pig for the fair this year, so I told her I would happily go pick up some milk and pull out $125 cash for the pig. Kalkaska is a great town, and fairly small, so it only took me about 3 minutes to get to the grocery store.
At 8am on a Saturday, the grocery store was pretty quiet, and I took the familiar path from the front entry doors, walked between registers three and four and straight through the diaper aisle to the back of the store and the dairy cooler. I found the milk, and walked back up to register six for checkout.
The clerk, who was cleaning the top of a pop cooler, cheerfully put down her rag and came to help me check out. When I entered the cash back she informed me she didn't have any $20 bills, so she gave me a $100 dollar bill and said I could exchange it at the customer service counter directly behind me.
I walked up to the counter and in an instant I could see that the lady working was already having a bad morning. The phone was down on the counter, and she was looking up something when she tersely stated, "Register six is open for sales." I explained I needed my $100 exchanged and she rolled her eyes, sighed in annoyance and stopped doing anything for several seconds.
I assured her I was in no hurry, which seemed to free her to finish her phone call (which turned out to be a fellow employee requesting her schedule for the next week). After hanging up the phone, she came back to the counter, still very agitated about something, and looked at me as though she couldn't remember why I was there. I slid my $100 bill across the counter and asked if I could get change.
She opened up the till, and then somewhat aggressively, grabbed two $50 bills from the register and placed them firmly onto the counter in front of me, snatched up the $100, stuffed it in the register and then closed up the till in a fairly fluid motion. I smiled and tried to speak as kindly as possible and stated, "I actually need $20 bills."
Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, "Well today you get $50's" and walked back to counting cigarette cases and lottery ticket rolls. So I thanked her and walked out with 2, $50 bills and a smile.
(After my incident at customer service, I kind of felt like Lou Costello in this classic Abbot and Costello clip: "Two Tens for a 5!")
Obviously, something had happened to that poor woman to drive her day the direction it was going. This particular store opens at 7am on Saturdays, and I can only figure that her opening hours had not gone as she had planned. Who knows, maybe someone didn't show up to work, maybe a grocery order didn't arrive or came with the wrong contents or maybe she woke up today, after having learned some awful news yesterday, and is trying to figure out what's next in her life.
Of course, she could just be a terrible customer service representative or generally just hate people. We've been helped by her in the past so it seems like the former answers are more likely than the latter, but whatever the case, today she was having a bad day.
I don't recall where I heard this phrase first, but I remember someone saying, "Don't ever judge a person on their worst day." We all have bad days, and if my encounter with someone, as bad as it might have been, occurred on their worst day, my impression of them may not be very good. Just as if someone's only experience with me came on my worst day, they would be inclined to reject everything else I say based on that one encounter.
In the same way, not only do I not want to judge a person who's having a bad day, but I really don't want to add to their misery. Imagine if I had gotten irritated at this woman's lack of listening. I saw the open register, she had plenty of $20 bills and I could have stated correctly, "No mam, $50 bills will not work for me today. Please open the register and give me the $20 bills I requested." If she protested, I would have threatened her, taken down her name and then followed up with the store manager to make sure her attitude was made known.
Maybe she would have been reprimanded for her actions. Maybe even fired. Then I could have been satisfied that my customer service experience was properly rectified and that my rights were handled with the utmost importance.
I know, I know, "The customer is always right." But is that what living the Overboard Life is about? Being right or being in the right when it comes to customer service? I know, this world – especially in our amazing Western Culture – elevates customers to a place of near deity and sometimes we Christians buy in to the notion that our rights are the most important aspect of our lives. We demand that we should be satisfied, that we should be comfortable and that when we are a paying customer, our needs should be the highest priority of some employee.
What happens when we live this way in every area of life? Some abandon marriage easily, commitment to a church becomes a foreign concept, and the seed of bitterness finds ripe soil in which to take root. If my highest good is seeking my highest satisfaction, anything contrary to that is reason for alarm. And if I can't get someone in authority to see things the way I see them, then I leave for greener pastures. I boycott. I passive/aggressively tell others on social media about how terribly I was treated. I constantly justify my actions to me.
The Overboard Life demands inconvenience. It requires a willingness to be wronged sometimes, and to embrace the fact that our highest calling is not to our comfort or to proper customer service. Sometimes, maybe even more often than not, we should embrace inconvenience over being “right.”
When Jesus was asked “What is the Greatest Commandment?” He responded with two answers: Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and, He said, love your neighbor as yourself. Love God and love others. Everything else in life falls under these two categories, and love sometimes demands that the lover be willing to be wronged.
Are you spending a lot of time fighting for your rights? Do you experience constant turmoil, friction or tension because you find yourself constantly fighting inconvenience (perceived or real) or unfair treatment in some area(s) of your life? Embrace inconvenience as a worthy travel companion and focus on what really matters: love God, and love others.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!