Monday, July 19, 2010

Work as play, or, A Tale of Six Tea Bags

I love it when people turn work into play. Even better when they give themselves and others a lift by doing more, in an improvisational way, than could possibly be asked of them in a job.

Case in point, from a recent flight on Southwest:

The woman next to me asks the young male flight attendant for hot tea. He returns with a selection of six Stash tea bags as well as the standard-issue Earl Grey and chamomile.

"My goodness," my rowmate gasps. "I'm amazed that Southwest has such a wide selection."

"Oh, they're not standard issue," the flight attendant responds. "I just thought that passengers deserve a wider selection than Southwest supplies, so I bring these from the airline hotels where they put us up overnight."

I congratulated the flight attendant, with strong appreciation, for his initiative - and for turning his work into play. He responded by giving me a free drink. Full marks to him, and to Southwest for choosing its staff so well.

At the end of that flight, the fellow at the car rental desk asked if I was in his town on business or pleasure. "I don't make that distinction anywhere in my life," I told him. That is simple truth.

He cocked his head and asked, "Are you a writer?"

"That's a pretty good guess. How did you come up with that?"

"I was trying to think what kind of job you would have if your work was your play."

The Southwest flight attendant's performance with the tea bags suggests that the answer can be: ANY job.


La Belette Rouge said...

I love it when people guess that I am a writer just based on our conversation---even when I am not trying to be writerly.

Don said...

Your experience reminds me of one summer when I worked on horseback way back in the mountains. I was asked when I wanted to take my vacation. I replied that I didn’t need a vacation. My job was a vacation. I really meant it. I was doing just what I wanted to do. But they insisted. Oh well, I yielded. I went hiking and swimming, and stuff like that, with friends for a while. That was a lot of fun, too. Then I went back to my regular "vacation" working in the back country. Of course I swam there, too. Those were the days!

Robert Moss said...

Don - Nice memories. I don't much care for the word "vacation", though, since it comes from the Latin "vacare", meaning "to be empty". Better to think of every work day - when we're doing The Work that we love - as a holiday.

Robert Moss said...

La Belette - I don't know that I ever "try to be writerly". But once, when I was signing a credit card slip with a fountain pen, the man behind me in line announced, "You are a writer."

When I asked him how he knew that, he said, "These days only a writer would write with a fountain pen." (Not true, actually.) He now wanted to know my name.

When I gave it, he became excited and emotional. "Robert FROST? May I have your autograph?"

"I could sign Robert Frost's name for you," I told him, "but he's been gone rather a long time."

Justin Patrick Moore said...

There is another lesson here: quality Tea (and I'm talking about Camellia Sinensis, not that fuffy herbal fluff)tends to galvanize one while on the job. It lifts the mood, and in my experience, without the debilitating crash that comes from coffee. But hey, I drink that too.

Doing more than what you are paid for is definitely a key to success. I suspect though, that the contagious passion for doing real Work is what really sets people ablaze.

Robert Moss said...

On the way to doing The Work, we all gain by putting more into the work we are doing and making it our game, instead of moaning and bitching about what we must do to pay the bills.

Don said...

Robert -- Vacation, meaning vacating, is just what I meant. We used to speak of vacationing as "getting away from it all," of becoming free of or empty of our problems. When I was told to take a vacation I was being told to get away from the stresses and problems of my job. But on the job I was already free of stress and problems. I was always on "vacation," always taking a holiday.

I had the kind of job that many people "dreamed" of getting. It was a like a vacation in the every sense of the word. I didn't need any more vacating. I didn't need to be emptied of anything more. "You get paid for that?" people asked. Yes, I did. :-)

Robert Moss said...

Don - Thanks for reminding us that one of the arts of life is to do what you love and let the world pay you for doing it.

Marika Ieva said...

Excellent story!!! Thanks!