My mom used to work as a waitress at a tea lounge at a three-star hotel. Her boss left one day for another job so she took over the responsibility of the tea lounge.
I remembered the hotel being the source of all niceties we have in our lives. She brought home fancy and expensive looking stuff I have never seen before - an expensive looking statue of buddha from Thailand, a new set of ceramic tea pots, salivating left-over snacks from business meetings held at the hotel.
Raised by a single mom, I used to visit her at work often. I spent a considerate amount of my middle school weekends there - I would shower at the staff shower room, eat at the staff cafeteria and do my homework at a corner table in the tea lounge.
Going to eat at the staff cafeteria was the most interesting experience of all. You'd have to walk by the actual hotel restaurant that paying customers typically go to - fancy tableware, high ceiling, professionally dressed waitresses etc - to go to a grey, modest cafeteria where you can see people in uniforms waiting in line to get a meal on a metal plate.
Perhaps above all, what I remembered most about it was the smell. It wasn't a particularly good smell, cheap perfume mixed with the conditioner of the carpet plus tiny tint of cigarette smoke. That was the smell I associated with being well-off and feeling fancy in the little brain of mine.
It was not till years later, when I was waiting for the elevator at a hotel in Mexico that a scent like this hit me. It was a similar kind of hotel as the one my mom used to work at. My company had sent me abroad for a recruiting event. It was the evening of the eventful and successful day. I had just finished a 4 course dinner in celebration with my coworkers at the hotel restaurant.
Guilt struck, I looked around and saw people that were previously invisible to me. The housekeepers, restaurant workers, concierge - the people who made our experience enjoyable. I never asked for their name. I had never gone out of my way to make them smile. I went about my day not even noticing that they exist.
I was going just say that I was a selfish jerk (which I was). But in 2021, I'd like to be a little bit more kind to myself. So instead I will just pose this question to myself and the reader: "What kind of a world would it be if more people go out of their way to make others smile?" Standard politeness is no longer enough but what if we go all out to make them smile?
Next time you see a security guard under a hot sun, get him/her a cold icy drink. Next time you go to a movie theater, sneak some chocolate for the ticket collector. Bring your waiters and waitresses of your favorite restaurants some flowers. Share love where they least expect it, and enjoy their smile. :D