Take number and sit down

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Okay, I’ll admit it. When patience was handed out, I didn’t get any. I was just too impatient to wait in the long line.
So what do you get when you add together Georgia heat and humidity, skipping breakfast, and cramming a bunch of folks shoulder to shoulder into a small waiting room?
Oh, did I mention having to deal with a governmental agency (which will remain nameless for my own protection)? Sit back and take a number – you’re not gonna believe how this one turns out. It even surprised little old me.

There has only been one time in my life when standing in line hasn’t been a bother – way back in third grade at Mt. Olive Elementary School. The line wasn’t for the bathroom or recess, although both are extremely important to a third grader. It was for lunch and only on Fridays. Fridays were sticky bun days, and I would still stand in line today for one of those frosted sticky delights.

No such pastry enjoyment waited for me when I arrived at the not to be named government agency. Instead, after walking past a security guard outside and through the front door, I was met by a computer. The computer prompted me to input information. In return, it spat out a printed ticket with numbers, instructed me to take the ticket, find a seat, and wait until called. Just when I thought it couldn’t get less personal, it did.
While waiting for my number to be called, I watched the person behind window number three conduct business. Folks had come to the organization for help, and this person acted as if it were some great imposition that they had done so.

Amazed at the unsympathetic attitude on display for the next 20 minutes, I hoped my number would turn up at one of the other two windows. Nope, I was called to window number three where I took my seat across from someone who hardly even made eye contact.
Through thick panes of slotted glass, I explained my situation and asked for help. The response was a gruff, “You’re at the wrong window. Go through that door, down the hall, first window on the left. She’ll take care of you.”

Not wanting to argue why I hadn’t been sent down the hall in the first place, I simply picked up my stack of papers and started through the door and down the hallway. When I arrived at the first window on the left, the way I was greeted not only astonished me, but also left me almost speechless.
On the other side of the window a warm and charming smile greeted me. Behind the smile was an even nicer lady. Looking me directly in the eyes, she sincerely asked how she could be of help. She listened attentively to my plight, examined my stack of paperwork, and checked her computer.
Then she did something the person in the third window would never think of doing — she actually thanked me. She thanked me for filling out the long form online before arriving and for my paperwork being in such good order.

But our meeting wasn’t quite over with. There were other surprises still to come.
She actually cared how I was doing. When I told her even though it had been a difficult time, it was okay. I now have a 3-month-old granddaughter. She asked if I had any pictures. For the next few moments, I showed her pictures as we talked about how wonderful it is to spend time with little ones.
Then she talked about how proud she was about her own daughter, the doctor. The five minutes she spent with me just talking how wonderful children are made all the difference in the world.

Although not quite as good as a sticky bun from the lunch ladies at Mt. Olive Elementary School, the feeling leaving that building was almost as satisfying.
Guess it just goes to show, even if you work for a nameless organization, how you treat people you come in contact with actually can make all the difference in their lives.
And who knows? Your actions could end up the topic of a newspaper column — along with a glowing letter of appreciation sent to your boss.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is storiesbyrick@gmail.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]

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