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.
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.