Crumbs, Checkers, Cars, and Critics

From the Windows of Waverly’s

As the guy behind the counter of a little coffee shop in a quaint Texas town, I get a unique view not only through the big glass windows, but also into the lives of everyday quaint town Texans.  Sometimes that view and those Texans teach me a little something about me.

After a crowd leaves, I walk around the counter to clean the crumbs from the newly made checker tables. So many people compliment them, but few actually play. As I sit to think of ways to remind people we have checker pieces they can check out, I may make a mental note to challenge my daughter after she returns from school, or as I often do, I may gaze out the window and wander a ponder. As cars drive by, I play my own game of sorts.

“That’s Mamma Tank . . . Don’t know them . . . Don’t know them . . . John, be careful with that U-turn . . . Ooh, customer . . . Nope, just reading the sign. . . There’s oh, what’s their name . . .”

Drivers are mostly in their own world, as I am in mine. Some are visibly impatient at the light, many are talking on their phone. Some people are looking out their own windows – I wonder what they are thinking. Many cars I recognize from living three years in a small town, but we get a lot of travelers through, as well. Each driver has their story, and passing by the windows of Waverly’s is a mere geographical coincidence.

Some drivers do pull in with the intent of getting some food, drinks or a birthday gift, and I hop up ready to serve. This is where the stories from inside the car windows overlap with the story within ours.

Almost every person who has walked through the doors has been pleasant, gracious, and genuine. Most customers are now friends, and many have become family – all have been patient when we are slow, understanding when we mess up, and polite when they aren’t 100% satisfied. But occasionally we get a group that, without their own awareness, are probably leaving upset no matter what happens (and we’ll always try to make it a smile). It is these types that, if they leave a one star review on Yelp!, if you look at their profile, they’ve left quite a few.

It may just be a coincidence, but merely from my observation from my little corner of the world, most of these come from the city. These types are not used to participating in a story, they just want their food. They aren’t used to a place not having 20 different condiments, having to wait a few minutes for something that doesn’t resemble fast food, or a place running out of something due to a particularly busy day (we try not to). They have their way of talking down to food service workers, and have a general air of entitlement. You know the type?

So how did the column get from watching cars to griping about the inevitable irksome customer? Ego. Our egos are very much like the windows of our cars and our homes. We watch the world as it is, and really only have control of what goes on inside them. When we have made our little world tidy, our ego is proud and rests easy. But when we let others in, it makes us vulnerable.

Ultimately, ego is what drives financial success in cities. Restaurants cater to ego in cities because ego is what drives financial success in cities. I just want us all to be created equal in the sight of God, and for us to treat each other as such – which is what this small town is good at recognizing and practicing.

Here’s the catch. Why does it drive me so crazy when an entitled person talks down to me? Don’t they know I have degrees!? Why do I get upset when someone won’t eat Meunster on their grilled cheese or red onions on their roast beef? Don’t they know that’s the best way?! Why do I bite my tongue when I don’t have some random sugar or sauce that only one other person in the history of history has asked for? Oh. Ego.

When we let others into our home, into our lives, into our shops or our cars, we become vulnerable. When you humble, kind, generous, and loving people walk into our doors, it is so easy for us to return the vibe. But our true colors, our true faith, and the truth of our own egos shows when someone comes in who makes it difficult to sustain the good vibe.

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:7-8

It is easy to reflect goodness back to good people. It is our own pride that is measured by how we react to those who are prideful. It is easy to be on the same level as someone who sees themselves as on the same level. But when someone acts better than another, our own egos make it a competition, where we self justify tearing the other down.

Let us not play that game. Let’s play checkers instead.