Dehumanizing Work

CW bored clerk.jpg
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Dehumanizing Work

Each trip off island involves making a shopping list so the time can be maximized.

Since I hate shopping this is yet another reason to not leave the island.

My first stop was at Circuit City for an item NOT on the list–my car radio has no input for my iPod and this seems les than fully human to me–I heard these guys can install a device that resolves this problem.

Glob, the name I will assign my clerk, was very, very tired. He yawned and looked aimlessly about as I explained my dilemma. He reported they offered no solution to this problem, this as his manager walked by and assured me, oh contraire hapless shopper, we do offer a solution, but alas the item is out of stock.

When I suggested calling another store the two of them looked like this novel concept had not once crossed their mind, assuming a mind was in their possession and available for use.

Finding the store number took considerable time, as did identifying the part number–the entire process was an obvious irritation. Eventually Glob informed me that, “they have two.” The they was not identified nor was the two.

I asked for further details and Glob showed the first signs of life–evidenced by the redness that began to appear on his neck.

Manager man came to the rescue and printed directions to another store and handed them to me–still no part number¢â‚¬¦

As I left the store Glob suddenly appeared in the parking lot with hieroglyphics scratched on a business card.

At Radio Shack I encountered Glob II, who never once made eye contact and was attitudinally on the surly side from beginning to end of the transaction. I swear I am friendly, courteous and engaging with clerks–Glob II was resistant to my charms and as a matter of fact seemed more than mildly irritated by my attempts at human interaction.

He seemed to believe his sole responsibility was to serve as a human appendage to the cash register.

Automated checkout at the grocery store was starting to make sense to me.

Better to deal with the machine absent a human than deal with a human absent the human.

Glob II hated his job, hated his life, and I suspect he literally hated me.

Next stop was the APPLE store, also not on my list (remember it is Mother’s Day week and the priority items were along those lines).

At the APPLE store young geniuses wandered about avoiding eye contact with customers lest they be summonsed to engage in service.

Finally Genius Jason appeared and quickly found the item I was looking for. I handed him the gift card with which I planned to pay and he immediately called on a seasoned veteran for assistance.

As he fiddled with his hand held register, he became distracted by the sound of a voice in his earbud.

I turned and saw a senior level genius issuing instructions to all the orange shirted store clerks.

They all laughed and chortled simultaneously. Genius Jason seemed particularly incapable of the multi-tasking required. The synchronization of clerk mental and relational abandonment of customer was storewide!

Having worked up an appetite I sought comfort in the local Johnny Rocket and plopped myself down on a stool at the counter.

Josh greeted me with a smile and struck up conversation. He handed me a menu and asked it I had any questions. As I ordered he joked about the diet coke when combined with the high calorie burger and fries prepared in what he claimed was the highest fat content oil on the planet.

It was oddly politically incorrect and I liked it. He brought the fries and assured me they were hot and he handed my a little paper bowl for my ketchup.

I was feeling reassured about the relational retail skills of the younger generation when a little sign behind the counter caught my eye.

1. Greet Guest. (+)
2. Present Menu (logo facing customer) (+)
3. Give guest two nickels (“play your favorite song on the jukebox.”) (- I found out later from Josh that the juke boxes have been out of order for a month).
4. Pour ketchup for guest. (- Josh gave me the dish but did not pour)
5. Serve beverage (+)
6. Offer Straw (+)
7. Present Sandwich (+)
8. Check Back (-).

I was asking myself whether it is better to be poorly served as in my earlier experiences, or to be better served but only with the aid of visual and written promptings outlining what would once have been normal human behavior.

Just then the music in the background blasted out with the Bee Gees “Staying Alive.”

The place was transformed into a disco with waiters dancing like Travolta, the cook turning the house lights on and off to simulate a strobe effect.”

Josh was hamming it up and customers were laughing and a good time was had by all.

Clerk-wise it was the most human interaction of the day and a burden was lifted.

After the performance, which lasted the length of the song, I asked Josh if “dancing when staying alive” comes on was in the company policy book and he told me yes. I asked if this was part of the interview process and he said no. He volunteered that back East the stores dance to Thriller instead of Staying Alive–inexplicable regionalisms.

I still felt OK and gave Josh a fairly good tip. He was human, even if it had to be outlined for him. He put his ham-mish heart into the whacko dance. He personalized the tasks and brought a friendly, engaging personal touch to my lunchtime experience.

Personalizing requires a person and I knew there was one in Josh–I’m not sure about the others.

Overall my concern is a generation that already hates life at 20–sees no hope for a better life–and rather than making the best of the only life they have–seems content to spill their discontent into their daily interactions.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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