The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

What Happened to Being Pleasant?

A few weeks ago, my friend attended her husband’s company Christmas party at the Biltmore.  The Biltmore is one of the swankier places to hold an event in the Phoenix area.  During the party, my friend posted this on Twitter:

Said Merry Christmas to the woman folding towels in the bathroom.  She said I was the only guest to speak to her today.

I was shocked and saddened by this.  It reminded me of my internship at a large law firm last spring.  One day my office neighbor walked into my office and said that he was getting new bookshelves.  He didn’t have space for one of his plants and he asked if I wanted it.  I thanked him but declined, saying that I have a history of killing plants.  He responded with something along the lines of, “Oh no, we have a service for that.” 

I was surprised to learn that we had a plant service.  I accepted the plant and put it by my window.  The following Friday, a woman with a plastic watering can popped her head into my office, pointed at my plant, and went to work watering my plant, dusting its leaves, and removing any dead leaves.  When I said, “Good morning,” she gave me a look that suggested that I was violating a social norm by speaking to her.  I thought, “She’s a person – why wouldn’t I speak to her?”  From then on, I made it a priority to say “hello” and “thank you” every time she came to my office and asked her how her day was going.  

Bath attendant Stella, Lysekil, Sweden
Image by Swedish National Heritage Board via Flickr

I hate elitism.  I hate when people disrespect or disregard the “little” people who are below them.  Maybe the washroom attendants, waitstaff, and clerks of the world didn’t have the opportunities for a fancy education.  Maybe they are doing what they need to do to keep a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table.  Regardless of why they do what they do, they provide a valuable service.  They make my life easier, and therefore their positions deserve respect. 

As we head into the new year and you’re making your resolutions, please consider a resolution to be pleasant and respectful to everyone around you, regardless of their status or stature.

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3 Comments

  1. Jana says:

    Ruth-

    Thanks for helping spread kindness everywhere!

  2. carol dorman says:

    Hey Ruthie,
    I was a well known student in seminary. My classmates were compassionate and caring people. I had a workstudy job on the cleaning crew and when I was emptying trash cans none of them recognized me. It was a fascinating social experience.

    Now I am working for a facilites management company and it is actual in everyone’s best interest to maintain the barrier you labeled elitism. The cleaning staff are skilled professionals who work on a tight schedule. If they had relationships with all the customers, they couldn’t complete their work.

    What I have learned is to simply make eye contact, smile, say “thanks” and keep moving. That respects while recognizing and valuing the work that is happening. My two cents.

  3. Stacey Puzinowski says:

    I read about your efforts on the Nutmeg Lawyer. Keep up the good work.