Yeah, so, a few weeks ago I posted about how it’s important to be nice.
And that very day, I wasn’t. I was nasty.
I’m mad at myself, especially because there is no excuse for it.
The background: my school's parking lot borders several well-loved local restaurants, so it’s a staff/parent parking lot by day, and we allow a valet company to use it for restaurant parking by night. Most days, the arrangement works beautifully.
But on this particular night, I needed to go back to school for an event. I was in a foul mood: I was running late, it was freezing cold (like, zero) and reallllllllly windy; my children were fighting in the back of the minivan, I was hungry, and my husband wasn’t answering his phone to tell me when he was coming to take over with the kids. So I was pretty grumpy. And my fuse was short.
I pulled into the lot, and sure enough, there he was. A valet—a dark figure, bundled in his hat and gloves, no older than 20 or so—approached. I felt my face get warm. Leave me alone, I silently implored. Go away. Walk away.
He tapped on my window. “This is valet parking,” he said.
“I know. But I work here.” I tilted my head toward the school.
“We need that parking spot, though,” he said. “Us valets? We use this lot. The whole thing.”
I tried to stop myself, but it seemed to just tumble out. “Listen. I work at this building and I am parking here and by the way we just loan you this lot it is not yours and I am not moving my car and I will be out in an hour or two and then you can have the spot back.”
Instantly, I regretted opening my mouth.
He slunk away—I can only imagine the names he was calling me inside his head—and I stomped toward the school doors. But I spent the rest of the evening feeling like a tool. All I’d needed to do was take a deep breath, gently explain myself, acknowledge his perspective, and nicely ask for his understanding. That’s it. Because, as the leader, it’s just not okay for me to be nasty. It’s not good for my school, it’s not good for my community, and besides, it makes me feel rotten.
I’ll do better next time. And in the meantime, I’m going to take some donuts to the group of valets—and make sure I offer an apology to the poor kid who was on the wrong end of my bad mood.