valar dohaeris, or, little things that matter to geeks

Those around me long enough know my annoyance at the work ethic (or lack thereof) of the service industry around here. You know the drill: fast-food employees chatting up their co-workers while people whittle away the lunch hour in two out of a possible five lines, waiters and waitresses who’d rather hang around behind the counter than patrol the premises, bus conductors who scold you for not packing your ass tightly enough into the standing room aisle, and so on. Heck, don’t get me started on phone customer service and taxi drivers.

Does it come to a surprise, then, that when someone puts in that little bit of extra effort to make a paying person’s life just a wee bit more convenient, that sometimes spells the difference between being just another apathetic asshole of an establishment and enduring customer loyalty?

Yes, I am getting at a story here.

I used to spend my Saturdays hanging out with toy collector friends in Greenhills, and after looking around at the shops, we spend the rest of the afternoon at the Tropical Hut beneath Shoppesville, grabbing a burger or two and then playing around until whenever.

People used to wonder, why Tropical Hut, of all places? The food was cheap, fine, but it was a hangout for people who a) remembered the days when Tropical Hut was at its prime, b) the grandchildren they brought along, and c) the sando-and-shorts crowd who are probably just in there for the aircon and the seats.

One time, when we were hanging out, one of the waiters just came up to them and handed them a small plastic bag containing two small plastic hands, the ones used for Gundam model kits. The waiter said that they were left behind the last time, and that they remembered our faces, and the toys that we always brought out when we were there.

Understand that these pieces of plastic were probably a centimeter or two long, and could have just as easily been swept off the table. But the waiter decided to keep them, and hand them over two weeks later.

Since that incident, practically all our Saturdays afternoons at Greenhills have been spent on that little corner, with the waiters sometimes handing us more bizarre things–a Hot Wheels car, a toy locomotive that was obviously something a kid dropped while eating there, etc.–but we never forgot the consideration shown to us for those two little plastic hands.

I guess that’s the thing with geeks and hobbies: we’re so used to having the things we’re so passionate about being pushed aside as insignificant, that we appreciate it more when these are given at least a modicum of appreciation. Watch for that moment when you mention something–a movie, a game, anything really–where we find a connection, and we’ll be all over you, discussing variants, editions, and whatnot.

The world needs more people around here who aren’t just in it for the daily wage. We need more people who understand that every little extra bit can go a long way, sometimes much longer than what we fathom, geek or not. We’ve seen how Filipinos, given a richer, more service-conducive environments (mostly abroad, unfortunately), actually blossom into manifestations of that famous Filipino hospitality.

The world needs more Tropical Hut waiters.