McDonald’s has long been a place of happiness for many children and adults. The toys, the playground, the clown with the frozen smile. They even have a meal named after the emotion.
However, in recent years, complaints arose about the decline in customer service. Among the most prevalent was the admonition that drive thru attendants were rude or neglectful. In response, management enforced a strict, “GET HAPPIER” campaign. The drive thru attendants began doing just that; smiling, asking how customers were, wishing them a good day, etc.
Just so you know I’m not making this up:
It was shortly after this incentive first rolled out that I got to experience this new and improved customer service. Pulling up to collect my lunch, I was greeted by a ridiculously enthusiastic boy in his early twenties with a 1,000 mega watt smile that reached up past his bright blue eyes and well into his blonde hairline.
There was a slight delay with my food, so he engaged me in some friendly chit chat directly in line with the initiative. He asked what my order had been, how my day was going and then explained the delay was partly due to how busy they had been that day. He revealed that in fact, his shift was supposed to have ended at 1pm.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!!” I replied as I glanced at the clock, which now read 4pm. “Don’t worry about it!” he cheerfully continued. “They’ve cut my hours, so I’m making up the time!”
By this point, my drink order was filled and he passed it along through the window. Distracted by a figure across the parking lot, he asked me, “Is that Martha??” I dutifully followed his gaze and considered a moment. I then responded honestly, “I have no idea.” Realizing his error, he laughed. “No, we had a lady quit recently, and she was one of my favorites. That looks just like her.”
Now back on track, he continued, “We’re just waiting on your nuggets.”
“Okay.” Not used to drive thru conversational etiquette, I fell silent.
To prevent a further lull in conversation that could possibly be misconstrued as rudeness on his part, he started over. “How are you today?”
Having nothing else pressing, I decided to join him in the do-over. “I’m great! How are you?”
He beamed back at me. “I’m just livid.”
I automatically returned his smile before the meaning of the word caught up with my interpretation of his body language. I shook my head in confusion. I must have misheard him.
“Wait–did you say you’re living or livid?”
“I’m livid!” he repeated, and if physically possible, I think his smile stretched even bigger.
For the first time ever, I was presented with the perfect opportunity to raise an eyebrow and say, “You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
But he seemed so sweet and genuine, I decided to take a gentler approach. “What are you livid about? Why are you angry?”
For the first time, the wattage dimmed as he paused, eyes widening. “Is that what it means?”
“Yes–livid means that you are really, really mad about something.”
He collapsed in laughter. “Oh no!! I’ve been telling people all day that I was livid!!”
“What word were you going for?? What do you feel?”
“I guess what I should say…” He paused again, selecting his emotion with great care. He nodded as he mentally plucked just the right one. “I’m ecstatic!”
I nodded my approval. “Yes! That’s a much better word. That means very, very happy.” He laughed again. “People are gonna be calling the restaurant and say, “this guy has been telling us he’s livid! I hope I don’t get in trouble!!”
My nuggets finally ready, he handed over the bag of food. “Have a great day!!” He leaned out and waved as I began pulling away. “And thanks for correcting me!!”
That afternoon, I learned three very important things:
1. This is why it is so important for your actions to always match your words…otherwise confusion follows!
2. Be open to correction. Nobody wants to walk around with verbal toilet paper sticking to their choice of vocabulary words. If we’re open to it, a friend, or even well-meaning stranger can aid in getting us back on the right track. For those doing the correction, do so in love. It could just as easily be you one day.
3. Also, for those still searching for happiness, I have located one of it’s sources. It’s in this box.