Did they take “civility” out of the dictionary?

After work today I had to pick up some prescription medicine. Our pharmacy has a drive-thru window, but it’s barely above zero today and I didn’t want to leave my car window open or the store’s window open while the transaction took place, not to mention leave my car running. So I parked my car and went into the store.

I was third in line at the counter to pick up prescriptions. (Actually, I was thrilled I was only third because lately there have been ugly lines at the pharmacy.) There were four employees (that I could see) behind the counter, and one of those stood at the ready to deal with customers at the drive-thru. Another employee was at the counter where people drop off prescriptions. And two employees were filling prescriptions. So while two of us customers stood in line inside the store politely waiting our turn, one transaction took place at the drive-thru. When that sale was completed, that employee stood and waited. There were no other customers at the drive-thru. Why couldn’t the woman working at the window come help the two of us standing in line? There was a second cash register she could have used. Instead the two of us in line grew to five in line before the first customer’s transaction was completed. But no one else drove up to the drive-thru window during that time.

When I was a teenager, I had a part-time job after school in retail. And I was trained that a customer in the store was much more valuable than a customer calling on the phone. How are retail employees trained today? Are they told to help the person in the drive-thru as quickly as possible? If you’re in your car trying to pick up medicine is your need more urgent than everyone who took the time to come into the store? Do stores really hire someone to stand at a window and watch clouds go by instead of assisting in-store customers?

Another question has been bothering me for an answer too. The home improvement store and the “big box” discount store near our home both have self-service checkouts. The last few times I’ve been in those stores, no matter the time of day, there was only one or two “regular” checkout lines staffed so everyone overflowed to the self-service lines. Calls for “all available associates to checkouts” didn’t bring anyone, or additional staff showed up so late (walking at a snail’s pace) that the swarm of customers was already through with their transactions, frustration and impatience showing on every single face as they headed out to their cars. I rarely use the self-service lines. I’d rather contribute to the need for a real person to have a job, not a computer.

And while I’m asking, where did workplace civility disappear to? The last three weeks have been particularly stressful where I work. Everyone has been dealing with challenges and deadlines. We’re all in it together, except many people can’t handle the stress and start using inappropriate language or they become bullies. I’ve been trying to come up with an appropriate phrase that translates to, “Hey buddy, I’m stressed to the max too so stop yelling at me!” or “Quit pointing fingers at everyone else and do your own job!” On Friday I was given an electronic file for a project, but I quickly discovered the file was inaccurate and I could not use it. I sent it back to its owner and explained why I couldn’t use the file. He was frustrated (because he had other pressing deadlines) and grudgingly agreed to send me a revised file. It’s been a game of Round Robin for the last three days. This morning I received the fifth version of this file and still it was not useable. My deadline was on Monday, so now I’m three days late with my work and this guy decided to yell at me because his file is wrong. Excuse me?

For thirty-four months, from July 2008 to May 2011, I was out of a job. It was demoralizing, depressing, frustrating, and painful. I reached the darkest depths of despair and hopelessness in “my discernment.” It was a supreme test of my patience and an exercise in learning to accept that the only thing I can control is my attitude. Lately I’ve been wishing I could put that sentiment on a sign and wear or carry it with me wherever I go. There are a lot of people who need a little nudge about minding manners and showing courtesy to others.

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