On Serving and Being Served
Perhaps the most wholesome thing about human civilization is the joy of service: of serving strangers and being served by strangers.
The most fortunate among us have a job that gives us the opportunity to assist clients and customers to make their day brighter.
That job, in turn, gives us the money to do fun activities in our leisure time – aided by people who serve us. And we brighten up their day with sincere gratitude and a generous tip.
Love for strangers is one of the cornerstones of morality and happiness. And service is the way that we get to experience and express this love.
What better place than a resort hotel for people to enjoy serving and being served.
Or, in the case of the HBO series “The White Lotus,” to brutally fail.
The main conflict in Season One is between Shane (Jake Lacy) and Armond (Murray Bartlett). Shane is a wealthy honeymooner. And Armond is the manager of the White Lotus resort hotel in Hawaii.
When they check into their huge romantic suite, Shane’s bride is bowled over. Shane, however, notices a problem: this is not the Pineapple Suite that they specifically reserved and paid for.
Armond confidently informs Shane that he is mistaken and urges him to enjoy his stay. But Shane senses that the manager is dismissing and gaslighting him. He can’t let it go.
Now, Shane is 100% correct on the facts. But he’s terribly wrong in spirit. His aggravation and obsession are destroying his honeymoon. He’d be wiser to relax and enjoy the top-notch resort service.
On the face of it, Armond is the victim of Shane’s control-freak demands and sense of entitlement. But Armond is actually worse. He’s a customer service professional who loathes all his customers.
Armond always says the polite, professional thing with an obsequious smile on his face. He never means what he’s saying, though. The smile is a mask that barely conceals the disdain he feels for every guest.
He isn’t just bad at his job; he’s self-destructive. Armond has the opportunity to find meaning and deep satisfaction at work. He could use his energy and intellect to help each guest enjoy the most magical vacation of their lives.
Instead, Armond spends his energy avoiding the guests – when he isn’t lying to them or stealing from them. And he wonders why he’s an unhappy man with a substance-abuse problem.
In a show full of wisdom, the most important lesson of “The White Lotus” is to think about the power relationships in your life. And to treat people with empathy and love even when you don’t have to.
Shane and Armond could have been working together to make each other happy. Instead they go to war. Please don’t be an ungrateful control-freak customer like Shane. Please don’t be a server who loathes his customers like Armond.