By John Pierce

During a recent work-related trip, I was enjoying breakfast and watching the various people come in for their morning caffeine and nourishment. One woman placed her order and was asked the familiar question: “For here or to go?”

Her reply was less than direct. The employee simply wanted to know whether to put the bagel on a plate or in a bag.

“Well, I don’t know,” the customer responded, as if mulling over the final Jeopardy answer. “I guess you can put it in a bag. But I’m probably going to sit over here and eat some of it … then I might take the rest of it home…”

Of course, she could have put it another way: “To go, please.”

I smiled, thinking this woman was much like my mother in that she always told restaurant servers, grocery store cashiers and other service people more than was necessary.

When I’d returned home to visit as a young adult, Mom had to introduce me to everyone, everywhere we went. “This is our second son; he lives in Marietta; he went college at….”

I’d usually jump into the conversation and add: “…And he would like the baked chicken, pinto beans, turnip greens and cornbread, please.”

But, before the server could head for the kitchen, Mom would pick back up with a detailed explanation of how much I always enjoyed the pinto beans and cornbread she made for me growing up — but that she didn’t prepare turnip greens although one of her relatives served them every Sunday.

To my mother, there was no difference in the way she spoke to a cousin or longtime neighbor and to the persons who sold her milk, shoes or cheeseburgers.

Like the woman who recently offered a long discourse on how and where she planned to eat her bagel, my mother routinely blurred professional and personal relationships.  Sometimes it embarrassed me.

However, I’ve decided that approach to human interaction isn’t all bad. I’d rather a customer tell a service employee too much personal information than treat him or her in a dismissive, disrespectful way.

And now I’ve noticed some blurring of professional/personal lines in my own life.

For example, Facebook has brought together a wide and odd assortment of more than 600 persons I’ve known throughout my life. [FB friends, you can decide whether I’m calling you either wide or odd:)]

Some are relatives and longtime friends while others have more professional connections. But Facebook calls you my “friend,” so I will treat you as one.

Similarly, some persons who began as professional collegues, subscribers, supporters, vendors, etc., have evolved into personal friends as well. That’s a nice transition.

There is something gratifying when those lines get blurred a little — if it leads to new friendships and treating people more respectfully.



Share This