Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finding Professional Inspiration in the Smelliest of Places

Customer service here on the BYU campus is generally outstanding.

With one exception.

The staff at the mens locker room equipment issue desk act like moody adolescents. They sit hunched over their laptops playing games, and seem annoyed if you interrupt them. They don't make eye contact when you talk to them. In fact, I generally get no more than a grunt from them when they hand me a clean towel after my racquetball game. It's the least welcoming service desk I've ever seen.

I can't say that I blame them for being less than enthusiastic about their work. I won't try to describe the sights and smells that surround them -- it is, after all, a mens locker room! But that's what makes Noah so remarkable.

I met Noah, one of the locker room staff, a few years ago when I first rented a locker. He was a tall, affable student with a big smile and a very respectful manner. I mentioned to him that I was disappointed that the lockers were too small for my racquet to fit in them. He said, "Here, I've got just the ticket." Then he showed me to the back of the room where a top-tier locker happened to be missing a ceiling panel, allowing my racquet to fit snugly inside. I thought, "Wow, this guy is different than the others."

The next time I saw Noah, he greeted me by my first name. I was really surprised because I hadn't introduced myself; he had remembered my name from my rental contract. In fact, every time I came in, Noah greeted me personally. He asked me questions about my work and family. Eventually, I asked his name too (I'm a little slower with social graces, I guess) and began to learn about him. We got to be friends, and I was genuinely sad when he disappeared one spring -- presumably after graduating.

Noah is an inspiration to me. Working in one of the least appealing jobs on campus, he brought dignity, professionalism, and genuine service to his work. I'm sure I was just one of many of his "customers" that he treated as friends. The contrast between him and his Neanderthal colleagues was astounding.

I'm not saying that working in a locker room is Noah's calling in life. Far from it. But it was obvious to me that he was honing his talents, using them to serve others, and making the very most of a pretty crummy job. I actually think he was happy working there. And I'll bet dollars to donuts that he will find his calling in life much more quickly than the resentful grumps who won't make eye contact with me when I thank them for the clean towel.

Wherever you are now, Noah, my hat is off to you! You are in my pantheon of people who bring nobility to their work where I least expected it.

1 comment:

  1. Your story about Noah reminds me of the Japanese women who worked for the Tokyo subway at the information desks. They worked all day long underground smelling that awful exhaust helping people who were mad, lost, confused and/or frustrated. They always had a smile and dressed like they worked for a classy hotel above ground. Thanks for helping me see that those lovely women were teaching me a lesson that I hadn't bothered to learn.