Sunday, January 15, 2006

Excellence

Do you want to know what it means to be excellent? Do you understand what it takes to be competant, complete, professional? Excellence is epitomized in the managers at the fast food restaurants near the Leidseplein. I'm thinking of two women in particular...

Unfortunately, I must confess that I eat fast food more than I should. Probably once or twice a week, I find myself standing in line at the McDonald's or Burger King between meetings at the Zolder. And I've learned a valuable lesson in how to shorten the time in line, by choosing wisely the person who will be taking my order. I've discovered a "sure bet" in each location.

At the McDonald's, I always try to get in the line of the short, overweight Indian woman with the nose-ring and the reading glasses. Her raven hair pulled back smartly, she hovers behind the counter like a helicopter, darting back and forth between the cash register and the french fry staging area, the drink machine, the burger shoot. She is confident and in-control. She takes orders quickly and efficiently -- no time for gabbing, yet not impolite. She makes it clear that her register is not the place for a poor tourist to practice his Dutch, and even now that my Dutch has become pretty good she can still perceive my accent immediately and she involuntary switches to English. There are a thousand ways that she has polished her professionalism perfectly, and I just know that under any given circumstances, her line is almost always faster. I've learned that even if her line is two people longer than any of the others, my McDonaldian muse is worth the wait.

At the Burger King, I scan for the middle-aged Indonesian woman as I walk from the door to the line for ordering. She wears a black BK visor and dark-rimmed eyeglasses as she stands as field general for the crew. She may have to leave her register on multiple occasions, to help one of her co-workers void an item or to mop up a spilled milkshake or to restock change in one of the other registers -- but even so, her line is almost always the fastest. I believe she's been there every single time I've ever been in the establishment, and she somehow manages to maintain an unbelievable level of efficiency with an eternal smile on her face. She is the consumate professional, and I've come to realize that I'd be a fool to waste my time with anyone else at the Burger King overlooking the Leidseplein.

Technically speaking, these two women work low-prestige, service-economy jobs for grimy franchise locations of two soulless mega-corporations. Yet they embrace their jobs with such excellence and professionalism that I cannot help but admire them as role models. I'm ashamed to confess that I so often despise the aspects of my job that lack intrigue, that dredge up feelings of dread, that give me no glory... I'm ashamed to confess that I so often turn the other direction when the floor needs to be mopped, or when my co-worker runs out of change... I'm ashamed to confess that I so often drag my feet when I'm feeling tired or annoyed... And I am a church leader! I'm supposed to be urging people to follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ... And yet I fear that people could learn more about excellence, competance, and professionalism by following the fast food managers instead.

So I life my paper cup of cola in a toast to the lady leaders of Leidseplein. I offer my praise and my orders for their ears only. And I promise myself to remember their example as I seek to live out my calling in Amsterdam, as they live out theirs.

5 Comments:

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Marco said...

haha, that's cool... and so familiar!

 
At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked your illustration/example so much that I copied it for my class on "Managerial Skills." Too often my students think of themselves as managers and they think of high-paying jobs where they get to lord it over people. Your examples of excellent managers are what it's really all about. If the high pay comes with it, that's gravy!
DA

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger Krista Davis said...

Eric, wow- i love your writing. i found your blog after awaken sometime and am simply intrigued by your stories and insights... leaves me wondering what you studied at BG- you know back in those days where you invaded the gym to videotape me and the team for Van De Walle!?

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Thanks for your comment, Krista. I didn't know you were in the blog world... It's cool to get a look at your own site; I plan to become a more regular visitor in the future (though I probably won't be on the Polish one too often)...

Believe it or not, I majored in Telecommunications and minored in Creative Writing at BGSU. So back then, my creativity worked itself out in video projects for h2o and such... And today, blogging has become my outlet.

 
At 11:24 PM, Blogger Jason Slack said...

I seem to remember spiking a volleyball during one of those videos in the gym.

 

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