A few weeks ago, I stopped to fill up my car. The station had gone to a new credit card machine, and you had to slide your card in a different way than before. I put in my card and received the message ‘card not read.’ This is not what I wanted to see, but I wasn’t surprised. My card is old and grumpy and doesn’t like certain card readers. I put it in again. And again. After the third time, I asked for help.
The attendant came over and pointed at the picture description of how to put in your card. “I did that,” I said. I showed him. He was less than impressed. I turned the card over, and that irritated him even more. Again, he pointed out the directions. I pushed the card in one more time, and thank the heavens, it worked. He walked off.
But as I was filling up my car, his voice floated over to me as he talked to another customer. Words like “can’t read simple directions” and “how hard it is to put a credit card in a slot.” Now, it would be too much to say he damaged my self-esteem. After all, I know how to read directions. And I have a lot of experience using credit cards. Still, I was glad to get out of there.
I think I know what happened. Since the changeover at the pumps, this poor man had been besieged by folks who couldn’t get the hang of the new system. I was probably the fiftieth person who needed help that morning. And he was frustrated.
But here’s the thing. It was the first time I needed help on the system.
This is one idea that I try to keep in mind as each new semester begins. Yes, I may have answered the same question twenty times. I may not want to walk over to the printer AGAIN to show someone how it works. After all, I’m tired. My bunion hurts. This is the first time I have sat down in the last hour.
But then I remember: It’s the student’s first time asking the question. And the way I answer is going to affect how he views the library, maybe the entire college. So instead of caring about I feel, I put myself in the student’s place. How would I want someone to respond if I didn’t know how to do something?
And despite my fatigue and my bunion, the answer is obvious.