It’s been a month since I’ve cleaned my car. Last week, too lazy to do it myself, I broke down and went to a full-service car wash. After I’d relinquished my Camry to a guy out back, I made my way to the the waiting area. The girl at the service counter–who was maybe 18 or 19 years old– was just finishing up with a customer. So I numbly watched cars on the conveyor belt get sprayed with fushia soap and dragged into a sea of giant black and red swishers.
Quite evidently, the man at the counter was not at all pleased with his experience.
“That’s just the way it is so I guess it’s your problem to deal with!” replied the girl, matching his abrasive tone.
Without a word, he slammed out of the door, leaving it rattling in his wake. I did my best to keep watching the pink cars roll by.
“I really love this job,” she said quietly. I looked up expecting sarcasm, not the pleasant smile that greeted me. “Really I do. It’s so great! Every other place I’ve worked makes us do that customer-is-always-right thing. Not here! My boss says if someone treats you like crap, you can give it right back to them.”
I should have just nodded and looked back at the cars. But no, not me. It’s nearly impossible for me to keep my mouth shut when I’m invited in.
“Really? I would think he’d be worried about losing business?” I stood up to pay. “This isn’t the only car wash around. I can’t imagine people will come back if they aren’t treated nicely.”
She shrugged. “I’m nice to most people. But why should I be nice when they aren’t?”
“Kill them with kindness?” I suggested. I handed her my credit card and watched as she rang up the service.
“What’s that mean?”
Frankly, I was shocked not only by her ignorance but by her continued interest in conversation. “My dad used to say that. It means that you get a lot further with a difficult situation—maybe even ‘kill’ their bad mood and calm an escalating situation—when you treat people kindly.”
“Guess it kinda makes sense,” she said.
The door jingled again and an older couple walked in, followed by the car-dryer-off guy who let me know my car was ready. “Have a good day,” I said to the girl.
“You too. Maybe I’ll see if it works,” she said. “You know, the killing people thing you said to do.”
I can’t imagine that went over well with the couple now at the counter paying for their wash. But oh well.
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12