So this happened today while I was standing in line at Walgreens. First up stood a woman with a handheld basket filled ALMOST to the top with trial sized items. There must have been at least 70 individual little items in this basket. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – perhaps they were on sale… or perhaps she was going on 15 mini vacations over the next two months… who knows. Next, there was an older woman with maybe 4 items, followed by me, then two women chatting away with their leftover carryout lunches, purchasing the requisite post-lunch chocolate and gum. There may have been two others behind them… the line was LONG, and there was only one cashier.
Over the next five minutes, three different associates walked by, looked at the line, quickly averted their eyes and walked in the opposite direction. Finally the poor, overwhelmed cashier asked for assistance over her intercom. No one came, but the woman working at the cosmetics register on the other side of the store quietly piped up “I can take the next person over here!”
I was in a bit of a hurry, but who isn’t? The women who wiped out the store of all trial sized products wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and I don’t think the older woman in front of me heard woman working at the cosmetics register. There was probably a time, when I didn’t live in Pittsburgh (because everyone is so gosh-darned nice here… I’m not being facetious. Spend some time in the DC area and you’ll see what I mean), when I would’ve RAN over there. Sure, I would’ve felt bad about that person in front of me, but I was in a hurry. She probably wasn’t. Anyway, maybe it’s age, maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s that I’m less of a jerk now than I was in my 20’s, but I stayed put and asked the older woman in front of me if she wanted to head to the other register.
But before I could get the entire sentence out of my mouth, the two women, chatting away with their leftover carryout lunches BOLTED across the store without hesitation. Without any regard for the two people ahead of them. Without any regard for anyone around them. Even when I called them out on it (’cause I do that sort of thing), because surely when I said “Don’t you think it would’ve been nice ask if the next person in line would like to be taken care of, given they’ve been waiting significantly longer than you?” they’d be ashamed enough to let that older women go ahead of them.
They pretended not to hear me. That really happened. Oh, they heard me. Let me just say, it took EVERYTHING for me not to make a complete idiot of myself in Walgreens. So I continued to wait… behind the older woman waiting patiently. Behind the woman buying half of the trial sized products in the store. I had a brief, but lovely conversation with the cashier about doing the right thing.
In the long run, the right thing wins. In the moment it may be a bit inconvenient, and it may be frustrating. But in the long run, it works. Whether it’s practicing kindness in line at Walgreens, being honest with a client about a project that’s not going exactly as both of you planned, whether it’s taking a little more time to get something ‘just right’ or whether it’s putting in a little extra when it isn’t expected (not to be confused with scope-creep or being taken advantage of… those are entirely different beasts). Be mindful of the space you occupy in the world, and how your decisions effect others. Success follows when you help others succeed.