It is easy for me to shy away from talking about my dreams and projects. I do not want to be ‘that guy’ – the guy who everyone steers clear of at a party because they do not want to hear one more word about his thing he is constantly talking, emailing, Facebook posting, and Tweeting about.
I care about my friends too much to be that guy.
But I’m learning that kind of thinking is hopelessly flawed. The fact is, the people I’m trying not to bother are the people who are my biggest allies and supporters, or could be if I choose to see them that way. The trick is not to avoid bothering those people. The trick is to give them whatever information they need to fully support and help me in my endeavors.
Here’s a little story to illustrate my point.
The other day I was with my friend, Cheeto, headed to his dad’s house to paint the guest bedroom. He pulled over at a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and Munchkins®. We walked in and it was packed. I ordered hot tea.
After a minute they gave us our order and we walked toward the door by way of the accessory station to fix up our drinks and grab napkins.
I opened up my hot tea and realized I just had hot milky water, no tea. So I walked back to the counter where we picked up our stuff and tried to get the attention of an employee, any employee, but it was packed, like I said, and none of the employees so much as looked in my direction.
So I said screw it and walked out.
I got out to Cheeto’s truck and he asked how it went. I said, ‘They’re too busy. I just–‘
‘Oh, hell no,’ he said, before I had finished my story. He grabbed my cup and walked back into Dunkin’ Donuts.
I sat in the truck and collected money on his ‘The Simpsons: Tapped Out’ iPhone game for a few minutes until he came back.
‘You need to learn to stand up for yourself, Natrix,’ he said when he got back in the truck, tea bag string proudly dangling from the styrofoam cup he handed me.
‘Did you blow up on them?’ I asked. Cheeto has a habit of getting very confrontational, very quickly with customer service people, and also with people in general. Apparently it has something to do with his Italian upbringing.
‘No, I just went to the front and showed them,’ by which he meant he showed the customers standing at the front of the line the hot milk water in my cup, ‘And I said, ‘Does that look right to you?’ And they were like, ‘No way, you need to get that fixed.” So the customers let him in at the front of the line, he showed the employee at the register, and the employee fixed it right away.
I had a thought when I was walking out of the store, at the moment I was accepting that I would be drinking hot milkwater instead of tea, that I should not just accept it. That I should get it fixed, for the sake of my manhood, if nothing else. But I did not want to stand in line again, and I did not want to get in the way of other customers who had already been waiting for five or ten minutes, and I did not want to start yelling at super busy employees to drop what they were doing and fix my drink. Those were the options I saw I had to choose from. Or, take the walk of shame out the door with my hot milkwater.
What Cheeto did was to get the customers at the front of the line on his side. Once they saw what was wrong with the order, they got out their pitchforks and prepared to mob the store on his behalf. Then it was a breeze to get the problem fixed, without the need for theatrics or confrontation (which is a shame, because Cheeto puts on quite the show).
So what can I learn from this experience, other than knowing how to avoid the walk of shame next time I get a tea-less tea?
The people around me are ready to ally with a cause they believe in, but only if I give them a chance by presenting my cause in a way that makes it their cause.