Something happened to me a couple of weeks ago that got me thinking.
It wasn’t a big deal, but it got me thinking.
A co-worker and I were going to lunch downtown on a Thursday. We were supposed to go at noon but on the way out the door I took a phone call I knew I shouldn’t take and we didn’t leave until 12:30.
When we got to the restaurant, all the tables were full, so we stood there waiting and talking. A couple of other parties arrived and waited behind us.
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About 10 minutes later, I saw a man and woman walk through the door. They were wearing polo shirts emblazoned with the logo of a large company in town.
A couple of minutes later, a hostess told me she had a table ready, and the corporate logo woman stepped forward and started following her.
I told the woman I was sorry but that was our table. (My Southern upbringing compels me to first apologize in situations in which I’m not sorry in any way. Bless my heart.)
The woman said she’d arrived before us and had been waiting in another part of the restaurant. I said I’d just seen her walk through the door from the street.
Stone cold busted. “Um, you can have the table,” she said.
“Gee thanks,” I said.
The whole thing was unusual. Maybe people act like this in, say, New York City, but not around here.
And notice I didn’t give the name of her employer. That wouldn’t be fair. I’m using an isolated observation to make a bigger point.
The company doesn’t matter. As somebody who supervises people, especially creative people, I know that everybody has bad days or at least a bad moment and does something weird or out of character.
That certainly applies to me as well, and maybe a lot of other human beings.
I know better than to associate that person’s behavior with the company as a whole, but I do have to resist the urge.
My point is this: If you’ve identified yourself as belonging to a larger group — in other words, if you’re wearing the official polo shirt — then you should represent.
For example, if you’ve chosen to put a bumper sticker or metallic emblem on your car that clearly identifies you as a follower of Jesus Christ, then maybe you shouldn’t cut somebody off in traffic and then flip them off.
Or maybe you should just say no to the bumper sticker or the shiny fish and then drive however you want.
One exception would be sports fans. If a person with a “Roll Tide” bumper sticker on his monster truck cuts off an Auburn fan in traffic, the Auburn fan is not disappointed because he now has an even bigger reason to hate the Crimson Tide.
As a Vanderbilt fan, I comfort myself in such times by thinking of 1996, when Vandy punter Bill Marinangel tucked the ball against Bama and sprinted 81 yards untouched up the middle of the field for a touchdown. (We still lost, but of course we did.)
But back to work and companies: When my dad gets exceptionally good service somewhere, he’ll tell the person, “You own this store, don’t you?” He’s usually right.
Or if somebody who clearly doesn’t own the store — like, say, a fast food worker — does a great job, my dad will tell her to call home and thank her mama for raising her to treat people right.
After all, that’s who you and I really represent. Our mamas.
So ask yourself this question today: Am I representing?
I’m asking myself the same thing.