A couple of days ago I was yelled at by a gas station cashier, and I’m still kind of upset about it. Here’s how it all went down…
I pulled into a gas station one evening to fill up, but when I swiped my credit card the pump said it was “invalid.” The reason it did this is that there is a tiny little dent in my card that prevents some machines like gas pumps from reading it, but the main cash registers always work, so I went inside. As I explained to the cashier that I needed to pump some gas, she looked at her computer and abruptly said, “But your card is invalid. You can’t use it here.” I then tried to explain the situation with the dent, and asked if she could simply use it inside, but she merely replied, “You can’t use it here. It won’t work. You need to call your bank and get a new card.”
Starting to feel a little frustrated, I tried to explain that even though it didn’t work at the pump, it would probably work inside, or at least she could punch in the numbers by hand. Somehow, this sent her over the edge. All of a sudden she started yelling at me saying, “If I went into your office I wouldn’t tell you how to do your job! I told you it won’t work, which means it won’t work, so you need to get a new card!” She actually went on longer than that, but when she finally took a breath I tried to reassure her, “I wasn’t trying to be a jerk or anything. I just didn’t understand…” But then off she went again. This time she told me that if she had come into the office where I worked and asked a question, that, having received the answer, she would say ‘thank you’ and leave. So, that’s exactly what I did….steaming mad.
It really bothers me when people are rude to you for no reason at all, especially when they’re supposed to be the ones serving you. Whatever happened to customer service? Isn’t the customer supposed to be always right? I have a lot of sympathy for people like cashiers and waiters since they deal with rude people all the time, so it baffled me when this lady was so mean to me even though I considered myself to be a polite customer.
But what has bothered me even more since that night has been my response to her. At no time did I react out of anger, though I was tempted to several times. However, my pride kept me from doing much more. You see, following the incident I described the experience to several of my friends, and even though they shared my indignance, most of them also expressed a perspective that surprised me. Almost each person speculated, “She must have been having a really bad day!” And in the back of my mind, as I stood there taking that lady’s emotional assault, I knew this. I knew there was probably more to the story than a simple invalid credit card, but I pushed that out of my mind in favor of being angry.
Scripture tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, and I’m realizing that it’s easy to do the second two without doing the first. You may not speak your mind, and you may not even get all that angry, but that doesn’t mean you’re listening to someone. I did not listen to this woman. And by that I do not mean that I should have more carefully considered the gas station policy on credit card usage. Rather, I didn’t listen to the woundedness behind her words. Instead of storming off mad, I should have been patient, maybe even asked her if she was doing ok, or apologized, or at least asked her more about her job. Anything to keep her talking so that I could perhaps comfort her since she was so clearly unhappy. But I didn’t want to listen, because it meant possibly enduring an even longer verbal lashing, and my pride wouldn’t stand for it.
What a wake-up call this experience has been! I have realized that I am by no means ready at all times to give a reason for the faith I profess. Instead, I am at all times ready to defend my honor and my right to be treated well. When cornered, it is my pride, not my faith, that I instinctively defend. So this whole thing has been a reality check for me. When someone attacks you without warning, the first thing you seek to protect will reveal your greatest priority in life. My priority is neither God, nor others, but myself. Humbling information, but I guess God had a purpose behind the gas station drama after all.