The Surface of Service

We’ve all experienced poor service. How do we know? Because we’ve also experienced exceptional service. Knowing one is what informs the other. These experiences create a sliding scale, whether it be interpersonal (restaurant server) or technological (internet server). We know quality!

However, when the quality is either stellar or horrible, we tend to look only at what’s directly in front of us as the root cause. Let’s explore the latter. “This waiter is terrible! It’s taking forever for us to get our food and it’s impossible to get his/her/their attention.” Equally, we’ve all slapped a remote control on our thigh or grunted impatiently when the spinning wheel of doom pops up on one of our devices, irrationally thinking that the gods of technology should inherently know when it’s our time to relax and not interfere.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have the ability to place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on all our daily interactions? Wouldn’t life be just grand if things would just always go our way? Shouldn’t life just know that we all have places to go, people to see and things to do, and just get out of the way?

We all know the correct responses, but we’re all guilty of wanting the opposite. When life is imperfect, which is mostly, perspective is the only accurate measure of perfection. Furthermore, when life is imperfect, is it the fault of the surface or what’s beneath…or neither?

In case of the restaurant experience, perhaps your server is covering for another co-worker that called out last-minute, or perhaps there were some problems in the kitchen that the server bravely took responsibility for, even though it’s was beyond their control, knowing that it would likely have a negative impact on their gratuity. Or, perhaps they are simply not good at their job. In that case, it’s still not their fault. Someone was responsible for hiring that terrible server, training them and holding them accountable.

In the case of technology, maybe the batteries are dead in your remote. Maybe it’s your TV. Maybe it’s the cable box. Maybe it’s your router. Maybe it’s weather related. Maybe there’s a local outage caused by a bad accident. Whatever the case, it goes beyond the surface.

Blame is easiest on the surface – to blame what’s right in front of us. But the act of blaming is ultimately a disservice to your reasoned choice. You are making the decision to blame because you are being inconvenienced, but nothing or nobody has to power to inconvenience you. It’s a choice to be inconvenienced.

Perhaps your slow service at lunch caused you to rush back to work and you got pulled over for speeding. It’s that also the waiter’s fault? Will you be taking him to court to fight your ticket? Are you also going to take the restaurant managers to court and blame them for hiring the awful waiter that made you run late and therefore have to speed back to work? Maybe you’ll have to go even higher up the chain to see who was responsible for hiring such incompetent managers in the first place. Clearly, it’s their fault. Or, perhaps that extra ten minutes spent at the restaurant fuming while waiting for your check served to help you avoid being involved in a terrible accident on your way back to work that resulted in a serious power outage in the area. Granted that outage is really inconveniencing me on my couch at home taking a personal day because I just needed a day to binge-watch some Netflix, and now I’m cursing the skies because I have no internet connection, but I digress. Oh, and let’s not forget how you’re going to blame all the people who were seriously injured in that terrible accident and your waiter for the reason your boss yelled at you taking a two-hour lunch.

Yes, we know quality in terms of good versus bad service. But, do we know the quality of our perspective? What a disservice to ourselves to not examine how we choose to look at things.

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Aspiring Stoic and Doting Father

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