Working drive-thru is not a particularly fulfilling experience.
In college, “Beavis & Butthead” was all the rage. In my limited and accidental exposure to their crassness, the only thing that I ever thought was funny was their skit about working drive thru, which had me ROTFLMAO, frankly, because they nailed it. When you work drive, you wear an uncomfortable earphone in one ear whose ding literally rattles your eardrum. People pay no attention whatsoever to what you say, and most engines make so much racket that it amounts to an assault on your ear. At least, that was my experience at Taco Bell in the early ’90s.
I couldn’t stand people who mumbled as if they were discussing amongst themselves and then got snippy because I didn’t acknowledge them. I couldn’t stand people who shouted as if I was half a mile away instead of at the other end of a highly sensitive wireless mic. I hated the car noise. I hated opening the window in the cold, and how numb my fingers got. I hated pretty much everything about it. In other words, I had a very bad attitude about Drive.
One day when I was in for the long haul—5-close—I spent the first quarter of an hour clenching my teeth as I rattled off my “Hi-welcome-to-Taco-Bell-may-I-take-your-order” in a sour monotone. And then, a gentle Spirit whispered in my brain, telling me something had to change…and since the customers weren’t going to change, it was up to me. Find one thing to compliment in every person who comes by, it seemed to say. And make it specific, and sincere!
I took a deep breath and opened the window to find…a woman blowing copious amounts of cigarette smoke in my face. God, I said to myself, you have GOT to be kidding. I cast my eyes around and said, “Your hair looks nice.”
The woman’s eyes widened a bit. “Oh,” she said. “Thank you.”
It felt ridiculously contrived for a few minutes, until something hot and hard inside my chest began to loosen, like a muscle being massaged. But a couple of hours later, when the supper-hour crush suddenly eased off, and I had a moment for self-analysis, I discovered that I felt buoyant, bubbly—charitable, even. I found that there was something I could sincerely compliment about every customer. And I found myself enjoying work for the first time in weeks.
What I learned that night was that attitude and mood are choices. It’s easier to pin the blame for my lousy outlook on someone else. But the responsibility for making each day a good one is mine and mine alone. Like all the most important lessons in life, this one has to be learned over and over. The details that I choose to focus on or ignore are the ones that determine my mindset.
A lesson to keep in mind this morning, as I go to wake up the kids for Alex’s first day of school.