Service of a Kindness from an Unlikely Source: Thoughtful, Responsive NYC Civil Servant

September 11th, 2017

Categories: Compassion, Customer Care, Kindness, New York City

I was married at City Hall in NYC and I’ve dealt on several occasions with various divisions of the Manhattan Motor Vehicles Bureau [to take a test for a driver’s license, report a lost license plate and renew my driver’s license], so I think I know where robot manufacturers go for their models. Warmth and compassion aren’t words that come to mind regarding the frontline of city employees I’ve dealt with, which is why this story that touched me was worth a shout-out.

A friend—I’ll call him Curt–was called to jury duty in NYC and for health reasons was unable to serve. When he tried to reach someone on the phone to learn what he had to do to be excused he dialed a bunch of phone numbers and got automated voices, so I offered to try my luck.

I found a number online and a message gave me a second number to call and shock of shocks, a person answered. His name was Jeffrey. He asked me for Curt’s juror index number, which I didn’t have, and gave me a third number to call after lunch that, he said, rang at his desk. Curt called and left a message on voicemail.

I wanted to be sure that Jeffrey had all the information he needed and that he’d cleared Curt from the system so I didn’t have to visit him in jail for being a no-show. I take seriously all government warnings. I called the next morning. Jeffrey confirmed that Curt’s name was deleted—he is also over the mandatory age for jury duty in any case.

I asked if Jeffrey needed a note from Curt’s doctor and he said, “No.” I thanked and Jeffrey said with some urgency, “There’s one more thing.” I replied, “Yes?” He said, “I want you to have a nice day. And bless you.”

His thoughtful words–out of context–took me by surprise. Have you been happily astonished by a kindness from an unexpected source?

Tags: ,

8 Responses to “Service of a Kindness from an Unlikely Source: Thoughtful, Responsive NYC Civil Servant”

  1. ASK Said:

    Kindness and competence–from both a telephone rep and an in-person interviewer from all places: the Social Security Administration. The telephone rep apologized that I was having difficulty filing a claim online–my special situation was not accommodated by the online filing process; the in-person interviewer cheerfully outlined my options and what would be the most advantageous in my specific situation. He also gave me his personal phone extension if I had any more questions.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wonder how fat our directory would be with names and contact info of these precious people which we would share only with like, kind folks. We might be surprised! So happy to hear about this person in Social Security. Being pleasant makes the day better for everyone.

  3. Anonymous Said:

    Hi Jean!
    This is really a question rather than a comment.
    I was interested in your reference that your friend was over the age limit to serve on jury duty. I’ve been unaware of this fact and wonder if you could tell me the magic number!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a dope I am –I should have written that in the post. Goodness. The magic number is 75.

  5. ASK Said:

    Even in New Jersey!

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    Nasty people and snarky behavior grab the headlines, so one hears little from the majority, whose millions of acts of kindness go unnoticed.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For sure–ask the airlines! Just this weekend our train was held up and the Metro North conductor was WONDERFUL. I dashed off a note to customer service to praise her. She kept us informed both over the intercom and by coming to each car in person to see if there were questions. This was the opposite of what has happened before….Maybe something wonderful is happening.

  8. HB Said:

    Interesting. You raise an issue, often debated and seldom thought through. Why does service to the public need to be rude, insolent and unfeeling in large City institutions? I think the answer is straight forward. It doesn’t.

    It is all a question of management. I know from personal experience that were the politicians to care they could, a) Pick good managers and b) empower them to act to goad the bureaucracy into providing better service. In my first real job as a vice consul, I served the public. With the blessing of my boss, literally within six months of my first trying, I had changed how the consulate staff dealt with the public, to the point where by becoming more responsive and wasting less time, we became more efficient. As a consequence, not only were we providing better, friendlier service but saved money because we needed fewer people to do the job.

    Curiously, the only people that I made unhappy were the bureaucrats at the Department of State in Washington who were suspicious of change.

Leave a Reply