Challenge,  Ponderings

Life Lessons Behind The Register

You learn life lessons working at a convenience store gas station.

While many of you are cuddled in bed, I’m making coffee, greeting customers and checking in the day’s newspapers. I start at 5 a.m., and then venture over to my other job at 8 o’clock.

As those three hours of the day unfold, I get a glimpse of people and their lives, and I’ve learned a lot about them — and myself.

Here’s some of those lessons, as well as some random thoughts:

• Most people are creatures of habit. I have customers that come in every day and get the exact same breakfast items, drinks and tobacco products. I like to think it’s added service to them when I have their items totaled or waiting on them when they approach the counter.

• Some people view others in my position as uneducated, lower class or stupid, simply because we work in service.

• People enjoy a friendly face and a kind word in the morning. My personal mission is to put a smile on the face of each and every customer I encounter.

• Customers appreciate the personal touch I try to provide. I ask questions and joke with the customers. I ask them if they’re feeling better and try to remember conversations from previous days so I can inquire and show them I care. For some, I may be the only person who does so all day.

• In a small town, people know your business and you know theirs. Everyone knows everyone, and most know you.

• Three hours on my feet is painful, but not unbearable. You get used to it after a while.

• Getting up at 4 a.m., though, doesn’t seem to get easier. But, I can get up that early every day and still survive until evening.

• Those customers you imagine being difficult are actually the kindest. And those you know in other areas of life who you believe would be easy, well, many times they’re not. I’ve been deeply saddened by this lesson.

• The parking lot will almost always fill up when you finally get a chance to go to the restroom.

• All jobs have drama.

• Jobs are available if you’re willing to work. No one wants to work for minimum wage. But, no one is above any job. Many times, jobs are difficult to get because so many people are out of work. Be grateful for your job, regardless of whether you are being paid what you feel you’re worth. You’ll never have a wage equal to what you believe your personal value is.

• My creative brain often works best between 4 and 8 a.m., but my sense of failure grows after 8 a.m. I enjoy working at a place where I feel I do a good job. It is mentally and emotionally damaging to feel like a failure in every task, even when you give it every ounce of energy and effort. Some areas of my life have me enveloped in this constant battle.

With all of these life lessons I’ve learned, I have a bit of advice:

When you encounter a service worker, remember that person is a fellow human being. And when she offers you a kind word or gesture, she might appreciate the same in return. That effort may brighten an otherwise dark day.

Not saying my days are so dark…

… but I appreciate kindness.

We’re all human.

We’re all traveling on this planet together.

We’re all equals (many people forget this).

I like my customers.

They brighten my day.

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