I do not know if it was the machine or I, but one of us was confused. I tried multiple times to get it to take my credit card. I needed a ticket for the subway to get to the airport, to home, to my patient husband. I just wanted to get home. I was a little cranky, and had never bought a ticket for this subway before, so granted I did not know what I was doing. But it should not have been very hard, since plenty of people were first timers.
Why the machine wouldn’t take cash for my $3 fair is beyond me. Frustration growing, I looked around for help. There was a woman in a black uniform on the other side of the turnstile that had been chatting with someone since I arrived. I tried to get her attention. I don’t think she wanted to give her attention to me. I went back to the machine, and tried a different machine. I tried different credit cards. Nothing.
I looked at the woman again, walking closer to her, and she turned away from. I walked over to the booth, and hit the big “help” button, hard. Then she looked at me, and yelled out over the constant din of subway noise “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” I yelled back moving toward her. “It won’t take my card.” We moved closer to each other, she looked puzzled. She said goodbye to her friend, and came to the other side of the turnstile. “What’s wrong?” she said. “It won’t take my credit card,” I said dejectedly.
Without missing a beat she pronounced that I had to call my bank. I replied, “I’ve tried three different cards, three different banks.” She said again, “You have to call your bank.” “All three?” I replied. “I don’t think my bank is the problem,” I tried to say with a lot of confidence, but probably more annoyance. “You have to call your bank,” she said a third time, in case I didn’t understand it the first two times.
It was at this moment, as my anger and frustration was building up, and my bitter tongue was about to let loose a few choice words, that I remembered my New Year’s resolution, Be Nice.
I was aware that she is black, and I’m white. I have the option of three credit cards from three different banks. I have a white-collar secure job surrounded by loving, friendly people, and can see the sunset everyday from my office window. She works in the Chicago subway system, underground, dirty and very noisy.
I shifted gears.
“Can you please come over and check how I’m doing it? Maybe I’m doing something wrong.” In an instant her face changed from determined, “it’s the bank’s fault” face, to “friendly helper” face.
We walked over to the culprit, and in seconds she determined something was wrong with the machine. We tried another one. Finally she got my ticket, and I pronounced her as having the magic touch and offered my deep gratitude. She smiled and thanked me for saying she had the magic touch even it wasn’t true.
In less than one minute, an exchange went from frustration and possible anger, to friendly exchange and affirmation of our mutual humanity. I bet she was used to people being frustrated and angry, and thus her stock response of call the bank.
Good News Year’s resolution. Be Nice, even when tired and cranky.
In strong faith, Kate R. Walker