Be Nice To Our Young Workers

It’s a busy winter morning and I find myself in a cheerful mood. But as I wait in the Tim Hortons’ line I can’t help but overhear the woman in front of me berating the young man serving her. Her voice is raised and she’s telling him he’s too slow and is keeping everyone waiting. As she vents, a deep flush crawls up his cheeks. My cheerful mood seeps away and I feel a hot anger stir in my belly. Finally, she’s done. With lips pinched tight and arms angrily crossed, she moves aside to await her precious bagel.

I step up and place my order. I make eye contact with the young man and smile. He takes my $10 bill but mistakenly closes the cash drawer before giving me change. His shoulders slump and he apologizes then explains he will take the next person’s order and give me my change then. I tell him it’s no problem at all. His hands are shaking as he passes me my hot chocolate.

The vile woman in front of me has watched our exchange. With a smirk, she shakes her head. “Can you believe it?” she sneers.

“Actually, no I cannot believe it,” I reply, loudly. “YOU are unbelievably rude.”

As the lovely lady sputters, I turn back to the young man, afraid I’ve embarrassed him with my outburst. His hands still shake as he passes me my change but his smile is brilliant.

Clutching my hot chocolate, I pause in front of the woman, whose mouth is now hanging wide.

“Thank you for making my son’s first day on the job a memorable one. I’m very proud that he kept his cool while dealing with such a nasty customer.”

Her mouth gapes a little more as I smile sweetly and push past her.

Yes. That young man was my son.

This happened several years ago but I’ll never forget how furious I was at this sanctimonious woman. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this behaviour time and again. And unfortunately I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I see an adult picking on one of our young people just because they can.

I remember my first job at Canadian Tire. I remember my own hands shaking and my own face burning. I clearly remember the customers who made me feel small as well as the ones who made my day.

Maybe we can all try and remember how we all felt as nervous teenagers trying to learn; trying to do our best. Maybe we can remember this and treat our service workers -- young and old -- with a little kindness and respect. It goes a long way.