I only had 30 minutes for lunch today. I went to "Lotteria" on the Pusan waterfront, mistakenly thinking I could grab an unnutritious, bland, cheap, quick fast food lunch. I waited 25 minutes for my meal and had to take it to go. I brought it back to the hotel and didn’t have a chance to eat it until 2:30 p.m., long after lunchtime. The cashier behind the counter took an excrutiating long time to fill my order. I was really hungry while I helped customers myself.

Did I yell at her? Nope. Did I chastise her for taking so long? No, I didn’t. I told her I needed to change my order to go. She knew what I meant and apologized. I told her I under stood because many years ago I also worked in fast food. I remember what it was like dealing with irate customers. This poor girl had to run the entire store while 200 or more Korean schoolchildren milled around, waiting to go to the aquarium. She was cook and cashier. I watched how fast she had to work keeping up with customers, making and filling their order. She literally ran to the back area to make the food. I could have ranted at her for being slow in filling my order, but instead, I empathized. I felt sorry for her and was mad at her management for scheduling so few people to run the store. At the very least, the store manager should have been there to help out if the restaurant was short staffed. Instead, this girl had to work her heart out filling orders for impatient, disgruntled customers. I have been in her shoes myself. I know how frustrating it can feel. I did learn one thing from years of working in "hamburger hell"–be kind to the person working behind the counter, serving you. They’re people too, and you never know when they will pay your kindness forward or take your anger out on someone else.

Most of the Americans I helped in Pusan this week were nice and understanding, even when they waited awhile. However, one person in particular was not so kind. They cut in line to ask me a question, and they got angry because they did not wait to get all of the information they needed and were consequently inconvenienced when they found out they needed to provide me with additional information. Their response was very curt and abrasive, and they stated with irritation in their voice, "Fine, I’ll go to Seoul." They refused to wait patiently and finish in Pusan, instead opting to be even more inconvenienced by taking a train all the way up to Seoul. Guess who will be waiting for them in Seoul? Yours truly. Will they receive good service from me up there? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on whether I want to take my irritation out on them or repay them with kindness. I haven’t decided yet.


Books by MG EdwardsMG Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures and children’s books. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service to write full time.

Edwards is author of six books. His memoir, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, was finalist for the Book of the Year Award and the Global eBook Award. He has published four children’s picture books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander; Ellie the Elephant; Zoe the Zebra; and a collection featuring all three stories. His book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is an anthology of 15 short stories.

Edwards lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his family. He has also lived in Austria, Singapore and Thailand. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or contact him by e-mail at me@mgedwards.com or on Twitter @m_g_edwards.

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  1. Angeline's Gravatar Angeline
    September 30, 2005    

    Be kind to them anyway and you will be blessed…

  2. Christine's Gravatar Christine
    October 1, 2005    

    I can also relate to that poor girl, being in the hospitality business myself.People can see you are busy and trying your best but still manage to find the time to criticise,have sooo often been tempted to have a go back haha.Can you tell me how you managed to get all those translations on your site, have tried on mine to no success.Hope you and your family have a nice weekend.

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