The first thing I did when I was back on US soil this past January was go in search of fast food. Actually it was the second thing. First I apparently needed to blow a fat cloud of judgey from well-dressed, willowy Europe through the Minneapolis airport past gates of sweat-shirted, solidly-built travelers. As American common courtesy would have it, I – carrying a few extra baguette pounds on my boot supported frame - was given most excellent directions to the Chick-fil-A in Terminal B.
I cannot speak of Chick-fil-A like normal people. I worked at Chick-fil-A in high school doling out samples of the WORLD’S BEST CHICKEN to mall cruisers, learning how to upsell people into a value meal, and believing waffle fries, along with SuzyQ’s, as a major high school food group. Needless to say, I was looking forward to the reunion.
Once at the right food court, I stepped up to the till to order. I ordered the Original – a boneless breast of chicken served on a buttered bun with two dill pickle chips (not to be judgey, but the tomato and lettuce should never EVER be added )– and a small waffle fries. I totally would have up-sized if asked, but Drake didn’t ask and that disappointed me a little. Then I launched into my Chick-fil-A story. Right there at the no-line till. Drake was not moved. He only asked: “Is that bottle of water from our case?” I totally should have lied because when you are giving someone a good story, they really shouldn’t be asking about money.
Later that same day in Lawrence, KS, I needed to get sorted with a prepaid SIM for my international mobile phone. Here I can speak of AT&T like normal people. I worked at AT&T for ten years marketing data plans I no longer understand. At the AT&T store, I was greeted, put in a queue and then told that the “data doesn’t work” on prepaid plans with the new iPhone 6. Apple’s fault (obviously.) Some things never change. Given that one uses an iPhone FOR DATA, we agreed that this was maybe a non-starter and I should probably head on over to T-Mobile. A hero’s return.
At the T-Mobile store, there was a line. A nice girl greeted me and told me it would just be a few minutes. I was not moved. Literally. I did not take a seat or “look around” the store – a completely stupid idea for people who already have a phone and would just like for it to work. Instead I hovered and did that thing where you wish bad on every person in line in front of you. That was good fun for a while until I realized I was already in Lawrence, KS. Also the nice girl who greeted me kept doing nice stuff – for her customer, for me, for her co-workers – and that was making it hard to stay pissy.
The girl looked exactly like Ellen Page except with lots of tattoos and hipster glasses. She was maybe twenty-five years old but her crowd control skills were like a seasoned pro. Not oblivious to those of us waiting – thanking us intermittently for our patience - but also not hurrying with her current customer. Of course, he wanted to buy a new phone. Why is it that people ahead of you never just need a new charger?
Before I allowed myself to get too defeated, I noticed the computer systems were up and “Ellen” knew all the right buttons to push and she moved with the possibility that there might be time for me to pick up a Five Guys burger and not be late. Working with purpose and good cheer, the only hurrying she did was to the backroom. Otherwise “Ellen” stopped with her young customer to admire his well-earned new iPhone6 like any good friend would do and volunteered payment plan options in plain-spoken English. You might think she was just doing her job, but I have Drake to point out that she was doing more than that. I decided right then I needed to get in her queue.
I got the trainee instead. He had never done activation like mine. Glory be. The Five Guys burger was so not going to happen.
BUT there she was again. “Ellen.” She guided my trainee through the entire activation process (after my name) without any hint of hovering or irritation. And he had a LOT of questions. I looked for an under the breath harrumph after the first dozen questions or an eye roll about the growing line, but it simply wasn’t there. Instead she kept up her warm welcome with each new person who walked in and stayed attentive to the person in front of her and tuned enough to my trainee to make sure he wasn't setting me up with a family plan with the rest of the line. It was like she created an energy in the room that made you *almost* happy to be there.
I did get the Five Guys hamburger and wasn’t late. ***Also, my phone worked.***
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine WWJD. You need people living today to show you what to do. You know it when you see it. I was thinking about Ellen this past Tuesday night when I accidentally left everything I needed to do to the two hours right before guests were to arrive. Unfortunately those were the same two hours my children were home and every multitasking muscle in my body was unavailable. I needed some Ellen grace to move with purpose and less pinch.
I can’t say for sure what Ellen would have done but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be stressing about lighting the scented candle in the bathroom. I do think she would have answered the 120 minutes of questions without nearly as much irritation and probably volunteered dinner options in normal-volume English. She maybe would have oohed and aahed for reals about what happened at school.
Somewhere between “whatever” and “maybe next time,” I did call a meeting with my children before the guests arrived. I figured if I didn’t get it right this time, it might be a good idea to apologize. I don’t know, but I’m hoping it created an energy that made my guests want to be in the same room with me. The stuff I was emitting before then was all icky and way to interested in my perfectly done snickerdoodle cookies.
Another bonus of the What Would Ellen Do-over was that it caused my little people to offer to be on “greeting committee” and later put themselves to bed like angels.
I really should get some hipster glasses.