Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Last Impressions Linger

My travels this week brought me to Wilmington, Delaware. I had to drive there through slogs of rain, both directions. It is about a two-hour drive from my home, but with the rain and road spray, the traffic was a bit slower. Most people drive with caution, especially the truckers.

When the conference I attended was over yesterday afternoon, I offered to drop off a colleague at the Amtrak (passenger rail) station so she could return to Richmond where she lives. And that's where the trouble began....

As I drove up to the station entrance, which was wide open with no vehicles anywhere in sight, my friend said goodbye, got out of my truck and went to the back to get her luggage out. Then this platinum-dyed-blond old female Wilmington cop came to the passenger side of my truck and signaled me to open the window. I did, and this is what she yelled into my window:

"Starting soon we are fining people $90 for stopping here. You can't stop here. This isn't a place to stop! We will fine you $90 for stopping here! The place to drop people off is down there around the corner. If you come back, you will get a $90 ticket!"

She said this in her most officious tone and demanding posture with a screechy, nail-scratch-on-the-chalkboard voice.

Oh cripes, dingbat, if I stopped in the wrong place, don't you think you could have told me that politely -- and I would have moved? But noooo... you had to behave in a rude and ugly manner. I'm sure this cop sees people stop in this wrong place regularly. However, her behavior was uncalled for.

It got me to thinking about how last impressions linger. For example, last week, I was annoyed by being selected for "random extra screening" by the TSA while boarding a flight from Kansas City for Charlotte. However, the kid who wanded me just did his job and didn't say anything. His colleague, an older woman, tried to relieve my annoyance by at least trying to be pleasant, even if I were unhappy. Come to think about it, she was leaving me with a last impression that I will remember. I was mildly annoyed, but mostly because I was delayed getting on my flight for what I thought was an unnecessary screening.

Yesterday afternoon, however, was a different story. What will linger in my mind is that a cop, who willingly or not, serves as a representative of the City of Wilmington, left me with a very sour impression of the city. Will I ever want to return? No... not unless I absolutely have to. But the city is rather decrepit and seedy, so I really have no reason other than business to return if I must. I just hope I don't have to.

And I hope this cop gets put back into a training course on dealing with the public, as I recommended in a written letter of complaint to the Chief of Police. There are a variety of ways of dealing with the public, and this cop did not demonstrate any ability or knowledge of how to behave appropriately.

Life is short: lighten up, and remember, you may be the last person someone from out-of-town talks to, and they may remember your short encounter for a long time. This is why, for example, I don't make rude comments to visitors to Washington who stop at the bottom of Metro escalators (they are called "escalumps" in local lingo). They just don't realize what they're doing. Smile, show them the results of their action in a light manner, and move on.

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