I unintentionally started a feud about six months ago. I stopped by a local restaurant after the gym to pick up dinner. One employee was having a bad night, or so I thought. I’ve since learned that this employee seems to have a terrible night every time I’m in the restaurant. It is that, or he just doesn’t like me.
Our first interaction wasn’t good. It’s partly my fault. I guess I wasn’t having the greatest night, either. Anyway, I laughed when he flung food into my to-go box. I’m not exaggerating. He flung food into the container. It caught me off guard. My laughter stoked the fire. For the next move of aggression, he forcibly slid my food across the counter like a bartender shooting a beer down the bar. This action led to a co-worker shouting, “Jason.” (That’s not his name.) His behavior didn’t go unnoticed.
I laughed again and made a sarcastic comment about the service and left. The next day, I took the survey on the receipt and went into detail about how bad the experience was for me. I boycotted this restaurant. The district manager sent me an email apologizing for the experience and assured me the information would be shared with the manager.
I need to point out I think the first step is to discuss situations like this with the manager, but in this case, the manager was there and witnessed the whole thing. I wasn’t confident about the resolution, but I rethought the boycott and gave it another chance.
About a month or two later, I went back and faced my nemesis. I was determined the outcome would be different, even if he remained the same. I failed. There was laugher again after he slid the food to me like a Monica Abbott pitch. I’m positive I wasn’t the only person to receive this type of service. And clearly, the restaurant didn’t care about the “customer experience.”
I gave the boycott another thought, but I’m addicted to this place. So I went back a few weeks later and guess what? This guy still didn’t like me. But I went in with a different mindset. He eyed me and took nearly a minute to put on his gloves. There was tension, as if it was the moment before the opening bell of Rocky versus Ivan Drago. But this time, I would not spar. I smiled and politely waited for him to finish. The order went the same as the others. I knew it would. I didn’t react, and I made sure he saw I left an over 100 percent tip. The interaction still left a foul taste in my mouth, but I felt better about my part in it.
I haven’t been back to see if things are different. Honestly, I may never go back, but this experience taught me a valuable lesson in control. Roman emperor and stoic, Marcus Aurelius said, “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” Digging deeper into stoicism, a basic principle is you can’t control the way others act. You can only control how you react to the situation. I made the mistake of laughing during the first visit. It set off a chain reaction, and I continued to react poorly. I let the situation bother me. My defensive mechanisms kicked in, making it much worse.
My example does not differ from a driver who cuts you off in traffic or any other situation that causes a negative reaction. The key to keeping stress levels low and not making matters worse is to know the only thing in your control is the way you react to something. As much as I would love to have the superpower to delve into Jason’s mind and change his attitude, I can’t. I can chose to ignore his behavior and continue to go the restaurant. (This would be really hard for me though.) Or I can chose to not go to the restaurant. Again, it’s not the ideal situation, but it’s something I can control, and there are other restaurants.
Life becomes easier when you accept the truth of the only thing you can control is how you react to something. You cannot control the driver who cuts you off, but your day will be so much better if you just let it go. Like Marcus Aurelius said, “It’s time you realized that you have something inside you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” Or, in my case, laugh just before takeout is hurled at me li