Last week I grabbed a quick lunch at one of the fast food places over here on the west side of town. As I pulled up to the first window of the drive-thru to pay, I was, I guess you could say, "greeted" by a scowling young woman with her hand out the window. There was no "hello"--not even a reminder of what my total was--just an extended hand. And when I gave her exact change, she put the money in the till and closed her little window--going back to scowling at her computer screen. No "thank you"--no "have a nice day"--not even a "you can pull ahead to the next window to pick up your order."
Having worked in customer "service" in the past, I was pretty offended by the lack of courtesy and basic human interaction that I had just received. So when I pulled up to the second window, I told the man with the Shift Manager name tag on that he should probably tell the young woman working the cash window to at least acknowledge customers while waiting on them. He was a bit flustered and apologetic and told me that he would let her know.
Fast forward now to yesterday. My news-gathering travels took to me to Appleton during the noon hour, I so I decided to stop at one of my favorite places: Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Upon entering the door I received a hearty welcome from the middle aged man working the counter. He also asked me how I was doing--and chuckled when I replied "I'm doing great. I'm having lunch at Five Guys!" While I sat at my table waiting for my order to come up, that same guy was a flurry of activity in the kitchen area, getting burgers on the griddle, dropping orders of fries, filling bags--all the while singing along to the classic rock songs and telling people "NUMBER 75, COME ON DOWN YOUR ORDER IS NOW READY!!"
Perhaps it's a shtick the chain wants it employees to put on for the customers, but it seemed like this guy really enjoyed what he was doing. And when he came out to wipe down some tables and check on how my food was I told him, "Thank you for enjoying your job so much."
His reply caught me off guard as he said "It's been tough. My wife passed away from cancer two months ago, but this helps keep me focused on other things. She was diagnosed in November and passed away in May."
Needless to say, I was caught completely off-guard by that. He then showed me a picture of the two of them--big smiles on their faces--standing in front of a marina. "She always had a smile on her face just like that. So now I try to make other people smile to honor her."
I'll admit, I was getting a little misty-eyed, but I told him "Well, you've done a good job of putting a smile on my face today." I then asked him his name--it's Mark--and wished him the best.
On my way back to the office, I was thinking about Mark and about the young woman who had been so unfriendly the week before. I wish that I could take her--scowl and all--up to Five Guys to meet Mark and have him tell her his story. Because I doubt that whatever had put her in such a bad mood the day I came to her restaurant was 1/100th as horrible as what Mark experienced--and yet here he is making so many other people happy.
So if you ever stop at Five Guys in Appleton and you see Mark doing his thing (he wears glasses and has some gray hair on the sides) just let him know you appreciate his efforts.