Wheaton’s Way

A kind word and understanding can go a long way

In times like these, we all need to make a conscious effort to thank someone for a job well done.

Last week, there was an announcement from Butterfield Bank that my beloved loan officer, Maureen Watler, was finally retiring after 49 years of service. Looking at her now, she must have started there as a toddler, but her youthful good looks aside, she was always just fabulous at her job. I reached out to tell her so as soon as I heard.

I reminded her that she had approved the loan for my first car when I was 20 years old. She didn’t quite recall, but then, a $3,000 Nissan Sunny can be fairly forgettable. It was hardly going to launch her into the stratosphere at her company.

I can just hear the conversation with her manager back then. “A $3,000 loan you say? From Vicki Wheaton??! Ms. Watler, you are destined for greatness. Pop the Champagne, everyone, and someone call the shareholders!”

Thing is, to me, it was a very big deal. It marked the transition from relying on my parents to having my own transport. You’ve never known happiness until you reverse into a lightpole and realise – for the first time – that you don’t have to call your Dad to explain.

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When I went to buy a house a number of years ago, I was relieved to hear that Maureen was still working. The paperwork was overwhelming and detailed. I didn’t want to split the atom, I just wanted to get this property.

I can honestly say, if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be living in my present home. Hopefully Butterfield management takes that statement the right way, and doesn’t start poring through my files to find out how someone with 50 cents in her savings account discovered a loophole in the system.

I’m grateful to Maureen for a lot, which is why I made a point of emailing her and calling her to say so (while, of course, implying that she was selfish for not working until she dropped).

I really do try to make an effort in this regard when someone has been incredibly helpful, as it always seems we have way more energy to expend for criticism. I don’t know if there’s a connection between being riled up and faster typing skills, but I have written many a War-and-Peace email after being fed up dealing with companies or people that have tried my patience.

For many years, I was a react-first/reflect-later kinda gal (and don’t get me started on adding four glasses of wine to the mix), but it should be the other way around. Rarely does the delayed service of a cold burger and soggy fries warrant a three-page rant ending in thinly veiled threats of arson.

Sometimes criticism is warranted, but giving it in a constructive way will make more of an impact. What is it they say about flies, honey and vinegar? “I think there’s something wrong with my dish,” said with a smile, will make more impact than, “I wouldn’t feed this to my dog,” said with a bark, believe me.

I’m clearly focussing a bit on the restaurant and service industry with these examples, and that’s deliberate. That section of the community has been very hard hit by COVID, with owners and workers trying to keep their heads above water until things improve. Over the last year, I’ve seen public social media posts calling out businesses for bad experiences, which could be devastating for them. Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” clearly never lived in the days of TripAdvisor, Yelp and myriad other sites that allow comments to be posted.

I’m not saying it isn’t good to keep companies accountable, but we should use proper perspective before we pillory them in a public forum. Quite often, we don’t reach out to purveyors first to inform them of our grievances and give them a chance to rectify them before taking anything further.

On the other side of things (and finally meandering my way back to my original point), we should channel the energy we use for complaints into a force for good. If a cashier at the supermarket is friendly and helpful, go out of your way to say “thank you” and “you’ve been terrific” (use your own words). Same with servers, delivery people, bank tellers… anyone who makes your day a little easier and happier.

If someone has really gone out of their way for you, consider writing an email to their manager, pointing out the employee who gave their assistance. It doesn’t have to be one of my ridiculously verbose missives that said manager would basically have to download onto their Kindle; just a few lines will suffice. It might be 10 minutes out of your day, but it will mean so much more to that worker.

Anyone who has travelled on a cruise ship or stayed at a hotel should know that comment cards, letters or emails that specify individuals who have made their trip extraordinary, can make the difference between a staff member remaining in their post or being promoted. Kind words and thanks are that important.

Maybe it’s because I just rewatched ‘Pollyanna’ with a young Hayley Mills who was always playing the ‘Glad Game’ that I’m in more of a mind to try and be more gracious, or maybe it’s because I’d like to be kind to others as Maureen Watler was to me. Sure, she was doing her job, but she went way beyond the call of duty and gave me help when I needed it most.

I can’t wait for her to read that I’m gonna get a bracelet made up which simply asks the question, ‘WWMD?’

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  1. In keeping with Ms. Wheaton’s advice, I am writing this complimentary note to tell that I have enjoyed her essays for a long time. She is not only a good writer, but has a great sense of humor that she is able to incorporate into her essays. I really look forward to reading whatever she writes.