Archive for February 4th, 2009

Remembering Service

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I had air put in my right rear tire today.  It made me happy.  It also makes me happy to have my pressure checked and even to buy new tires.  Seems weird, I know.  But I totally enjoy it.

When I was a child, I lived in a world of service.  Gas came from a place called a “service” station where your windshield was washed and your oil checked.  Grocers delivered, as did the milk man.  And a downtown shopping trip was like a day at a spa.  I remember sitting in a big, comfy chair as a sales person showed dresses or coats or shoes and handbags.  Each thing was presented as if it had been chosen just for you.  Then the same person would help as you tried on each thing, finding accessories, offering alterations, sharing opinions.  Lunch was at a downtown cafe, where the hostess asked where you’d like to sit and the waitress remembered your favorite sandwich.  The afternoon held the promise of being pampered by attentive sales people.

Today, I shop in malls.  Usually the mall is crowded enough to make just walking into a store stressful.  Finding sales help is a crap-shoot.  If you’re lucky, a kid will point in the direction of whatever you’re looking for, and then if you manage to find it, you can stand in line for fifteen minutes to pay for it.  Then you can stand in line to get some generic food and stop by the gas station on the way home to pump your own.

It’s probably faster for me to stop and pick up my own groceries, pump my own gas instead of waiting for the attendant to help the person in front of me, flip through a rack to find a dress I like, and eat fast food.  It’s easy and I have no problem doing these things.  I didn’t even really notice the service disappearing from my life.  One day it was just gone, and the world was a more impersonal, kinda lonely place.  But every now and then a little bit of the world that’s gone creeps in, and it can make my whole day.  Tiny, surprising bits of service can turn an ordinary errand into a relaxing break.

So I love getting air in my tires.  I love pulling my car in to the tire center and having the owner at my window within a minute asking how he can help.  I love sitting in my car and watching half a dozen men working as fast as they can to change tires, fix tires, air up tires, etc.  It’s like watching a greasy ballet.  Each one concentrates on his job and does his best to give excellent service as quickly as he can.  There are a dozen cars to work on, but each driver is greeted quickly, serviced quickly, and sent on his way with the owner’s thanks.  It’s nice to be treated as if I matter, as if serving my needs is important to them.  Knowing that I can trust them to take good care of my needs that I don’t have to worry about this one thing, that they are doing their best for me, allows me to relax and enjoy a few quiet moments as I wait for the work to be done.  And I go on my way feeling good about people.  And maybe I pass some of that good feeling along.