I think it's interesting how our perceptions change with our experience. For instance, I used to think that traffic on I-26 W was bad in the afternoon. Then I moved to Southern California and "drove" the 5. I used to think that my high school finals were tough. Then, I got to college. And I used to think that things like how you talked with someone didn't matter when compared with whether or not you were right. Then, I started flying regularly across the country.
I've kept pretty good records of my adventures flying home for Christmas here on the blog (which you can read about here). It seems like every year is another great lesson in how to remain cool under pressure. I've learned over time that, at any time in any airport, there are tons of passengers stressing out. And, as anyone who's worked in the service industry knows, dealing with customers can be quite stressful itself. Add to that when the customers themselves are stressed, and you've got a recipe for some serious conflict. I can't count how many times I've witnessed hurried travelers shouting at a gate agent and, when not getting the response they want, being brought to tears.
After one such incident, I decided to try something revolutionary. While the person in front of me raged against the gate agent, I could see all of the signs that she (the agent) was becoming exhausted by the situation. Her eyes widened. She began to get some slight perspiration on her brow. And her eyes began to dart back and forth, looking past the customer to check to see if she could find any one to back her up. So when my turn came, I stepped up and, right off the bat, flashed a smile.
As I smiled, I glanced down to take a quick look at her name tag. Then, using her name, I introduced myself and asked how she was doing. She, of course, told me it had been quite a day. So, continuing to smile, I calmly (and using my inside voice) explained my problem. Then I asked her if there was anything she could do to help me. Wouldn't you know it, my problem was solved in no time! It's crazy what a calm demeanor, manners, and a little friendliness can do to better your experience.
It didn't matter in that situation who was right (me) or who was wrong (them), the gate agent had all of the power to make my travel get really tough. (I mean, she just did it to the person in front of me.) What did matter was how I treated her.
Now, this isn't anything revolutionary. I mean, the Bible tells us to treat each other as we would want to be treated. But it's a truth that I'm constantly relearning. And as I've gotten older and my experience has changed, my perspective on how important it is has changed as well.
Just today, I lived another example. Last night, I found out that Regal Cinemas gives you a free movie ticket on your birthday when you're a member of their Regal Card Club (free, by the way). Well, I went to a movie on my birthday last week, used my club card, and no one told me that I could get a ticket for free. So I went back today, flashed some pearly whites (along with my ticket stub and I.D.) and asked politely, and now I've got a free ticket. (Even though they told me this perk isn't something they promote!)
I guess it's true that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Of course, why would you try to catch flies anyway? I'm catching flights and movie tickets with my honey...