Ok, I’ll start out here with an unsavory confession. One that will be obvious once we meet…
I know every human can say that on some level, but I’m afraid I have to admit it is a talent that I excel at. If there were an Olympic event…
The interesting thing is it seems to be linked to my creativity as well as the general temperature around me. So I’ve been on photo shoots in -10 degree weather (-23 celsius) where I have taken my coat off to try to cool off – try to dry out.
A corollary to this confession is when I’m miserable, I tend to want to make those around me miserable. No need for me to suffer alone… knowwhatImean?
So when I ended up in Charleston during a particularly hot spell it wasn’t pretty. With temperatures in the 90’s (32 celsius) and the humidity up around 8,000%… Let’s just say I definitely did not pack enough clothes.
We stayed at this terrific hotel on King’s Street, right downtown. A beautiful section of town, so I was out frequently taking a few photos. I can’t help it. My eye loves to discover the place I’m in, and my camera recording it seems to cement it into my memory. It also gives me material I can create a slide show around, or create a video of the trip for those involved.
So every morning and every night I’d come trudging up the drive, soaked from my latest photography excursion in the heat, and there would be Charles. Every time I saw Charles he was the epitome of cool, and the master of great customer service. Always a smile, always cheerful, always willing to overlook my moist condition – or at least cool enough not to comment on it..
I noticed while I was there that most people that live in Charleston move at a different pace – it seemed they just moved with grace. The last day there I realized it wasn’t so much grace as it was they just moved slower. I had no meetings, so I headed out into the city to try moving like the locals. Working hard not to perspire.
There was Charles on my way out, smiling and happy to see me. I told him I was headed out for the grand experiment, moving slowly so I didn’t perspire. He laughed, told me he didn’t think it would work, but he looked forward to seeing my results. Wishing me luck he sent me on my way with his customary smile.
How did I do? Well I even stopped at a restaurant for lunch so I could cool off/dry off before I got back to the hotel. But even after that, as I walked down the drive my light grey t-shirt was very dark grey in all the wrong places. I was dying. It was easily 100 degrees, and I just was miserable.
Until I saw Charles. He was so empathetic. We talked about how tough it was that day to stay cool, but I noticed that Charles looked calm and cool and collected – as always. He made looking good in the heat, the heat that he worked in all day… well he made it look easy. I told him one day I hoped I’d be as cool as he was.
Then he told me to come a little closer, and he pulled his collar up so I could see the tag on the uniform he was wearing. It said in large black letters “100% Polyester”. Then he unzipped it just enough to see the top of his soaking wet t-shirt underneath… “You could dunk this uniform in the pool and it would still look dry” he joked. He continued, “Cool’s all in the attitude, underneath, we all sweat!” He laughed again and winked at me and said “You never get used to it here – I’ve been here for 11 years, working this same job, I’m just used to working wet”.
He clapped me on the back, smiling broadly, and said as he opened the door “Come on in where it’s cool, let me buy you a drink”
As I sat in the hotel lobby, enjoying my cool beverage and the air conditioning, watching Charles as he continued to make others feel good as he provided superb service, the phrase “grace under pressure” came to mind. I wondered how long I could work like Charles, so hot, so wet, and still genuinely serve the customers that came. How long before my smile faded and I started helping those around me feel the same misery I was feeling.
As I got into the shuttle that would take me to the airport, I thanked Charles. Told him his example of being cool in the heat had me thinking. He laughed again, clapping me on the back, and said “well don’t think too hard about it, there’s better people than me”.