Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turn Around and Face Me If You Want Tea

There is something odd about the service industry. Really odd. Let me describe two situations:

We were in a bar, lovely place, and I'd been sitting waiting for service. The place was fairly empty and those that were there were drinking socially, not knocking them back, so I hadn't anyone I could watch to figure out the 'rules'. Finally, I turned around, rolled  up the the bar, and was about to ask if we were supposed to order at the bar, when a young woman stepped up to me and said harshly: "We serve you at the table!" and then she pointed me back to the table I'd been sitting at. Oh. My. It's amazing how, in the face of an authoritarian order, I revert back to being a little kid getting dressed down by the principle. I got back to the table and only then got angry. A thousand witty things I could have said popped to mind, which were then pushed aside by the two thousand angry things I wanted to say. I got my tea, Joe got his beer and we got out of there.

Second incident, second night. We pulled into the hotel and I went into the pub to have dinner. Joe asked me to order him a beer while he unloaded the car. I chose a table just off the bar area. I was sitting at the table, sideways, so I could watch down and see when Joe was coming. A young fellow came to the bar, looking too young to serve in a bar, and stood at the counter. I was at maximum four feet away from him. I asked if we ordered at the bar. He said yes. Then he stood staring and waiting for me to place the order properly. I unlocked my wheels and turned to the bar. I didn't even have to roll up. I was then at the bar. Then he took my order. I then turned back to my table and started to laugh, this is absurd. But, rules are rules.

Yep the service industry sometimes because much more like INDUSTRY than it becomes like SERVICE.

I bring this up because I wonder if those of us who are in the service industry, providing service to people with disabilities, don't get caught up in the same silly thing. Coming up with 'rules' ... rules that make it clear that protocol beats out common sense every single time. Rules that communicate that the 'business' is there for the staff and that 'customers' or 'members' or 'those in care' really do muddy up the day. Human beings seem to like their rules. Human systems like their rules even more.

I get that rules need to be in place. But I also get that there is room for common sense, and in the absence of common sense, common courtesy. At some point people need to understand that their job is 'service' not 'waiting bar' or 'serving table' or even 'dressing and feeding' or 'taking and transporting. The job is 'service' ... and service is the spirit that you imbue into the tasks, not the tasks themselves.

This is an important thing for me to think about this morning. I'm about to work with 75 people, mostly who have intellectual disabilities, teaching about rights and relationships. My task is teaching, my job is service. Going in knowing that, maybe it will make a bit of difference to how I do what I do.

1 comment:

rickismom said...

Well said. I know that as a nurse working in a hospital (as I did once), rules help you get things done. But there has to be the willingness to know that there CAN be exceptions. The real problem comes when a higher-up authority insists that "rules are rules"