June 21, 2012

The BIGGER Picture.

I was at the post office recently. I had two packages in one arm, and a toddler in my other hand. He was struggling to escape, but he was locked in. The people around me were nice and when I got to the counter the gentleman that helped me was polite. I wasn't even frustrated when he gently reminded me that my son couldn't sit on the counter. I had entered, put together one of the packages and addressed it, and left without a scream from the toddler. I considered it success.

On the other hand, the lady ahead of me had an open package and set it in front of her when she went up to the counter. She didn't say anything, so the postal employee picked up the package and asked her if she had tape. Her immediate loud and upset reaction startled us all: "No, I don't!" It wasn't just that she suddenly became loud, but that she was angry. Calmly the employee informed her that he didn't have tape to close the package, if she wanted to do that, she would have to buy tape. Escalating in anger she said something like "What? I don't need tape. I want a stamp." He calmly asked her how many stamps she needed. At that point she became infuriated: "I just want one stamp to put on the paper her in the package." She was practically yelling at him. He pulled out one stamp, peeled it off and went to stick it on the paper for her. "What are you doing?" She was livid at this point - ripped the package from his hands and said: "I don't want the stamp on there. Why did you take the backing off?" He became very quiet, put it back on the backing, rang the stamp through and handed it to her. She stormed off with the biggest harrumph I think I've ever heard.
After she left there was a collective gasp/sigh of relief from the people around me. We were all so startled by her insanity. She went outside, put the stamp on her package, closed it and mailed it herself. WHAT?!

I left the post office that day, thinking how different that moment could have been. Thankfully, my toddler had behaved. What if he hadn't? Would she have been enraged with me and my misbehaving child? I know many other mothers out there know exactly what I mean. Some people just can't tolerate active children.

What if she had not put the package down, or just not brought it in with her? The employee would not have picked it up and made the general assumption that any person in his situation would have made: that she wanted to mail it.

What if she had recognized his desire to be helpful and had kindly clarified the situation? Instead I am sure she saw it as he was an incapable employee and then complained to many people about what had happened.

What was her side of the story?

I am sure she was having a bad day already. I can' judge her too harshly. We've all been there. She misunderstood the situation and didn't communicate properly - but many of us do that don't we? Maybe not with a postal employee, but perhaps with our kids, our spouses, or other people we interact with. They don't know what we're thinking, planning, and hoping to accomplish. They don't know if we're in a hurry, if we're tired or grumpy. I'm certain that few people say anything with the purpose of offending me, yet occasionally it happens. Being there, watching this lady get so angry so quickly made me realize just how careful I need to be. In situations where I might feel offended I need to step back and look at the bigger picture!


Becca said...

This is a great post. Thanks for sharing.

Susan said...

Hello, I came into your blog to look at a jar craft item I spotted while looking up pictures of said items but this post was just to interesting to let go. You summed it up perfectly at the end where we all need to take a step back in situations where we may lose it. Thanks for posting this... I hope someone who was in that lady's shoes stumbles in here to read it!
Susan from Canada