Twice recently I’ve done something I don’t like to do – and it didn’t feel good.
I had ordered a take-out meal from a local restaurant and by the time I got there to pick it up I had already been on hold on the cell phone listening to my bank’s atrocious elevator music for several minutes. I had one of those little wireless earpieces so you couldn’t really tell I was on the phone. I figured I could probably pick up my order, pay and be out of there without the person behind the counter knowing I was on a call. Of course just as the young restaurant worker said hello and I told him I had an order to go the bank answered my call. I’d already been on hold so long I didn’t want to drop the call so I held my hand up to the restaurant worker and stepped to the side. I saw a little flash play across his face.
When my brief call was finished I went back to the counter to pay for my order and I said, “I’m sorry about being on the phone. That is rude and I don’t normally do it and I apologize.” He looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I really appreciate you acknowledging that and saying it.”
A couple of weeks later I walked into a grocery store while talking on my cell phone via the little earpiece. Shortly into the store I walked past an elderly man who was giving out samples. He leaned forward and asked if I’d like to try a sample of the whatever it was in the little white paper sample cup. I held my phone up and made that, “Uh, I am talking” motion with my hand. He smiled but I saw, just for an instant, that flash of rejection, that brief feeling of not really being seen.
I kept walking and finished my call. Then I went back to the man and apologized for being on my phone. I told him I thought it was rude. He was warm and gracious but nonetheless, I knew it was not my best moment.
The wrongness of my behavior seemed especially egregious because I hate the self-check outs in grocery stores. I resent them because they cut the human element out of the whole interaction. That being so, then how dare I take a call while standing right there within three feet of the human being working in the grocery store?!!
In my past I have worked as a house cleaner, a gas station attendant, a restaurant busser, and a grocery store checker. This was before the days of cell phones and tiny headsets but I still know what it’s like to not be seen as I am serving someone. I know what it’s like to feel the sting of being treated like a vending machine instead of a human being.
I am challenging myself not do this to anyone else again. I will not talk on the phone while going through the check out line, or the drive-through at the bank, or picking something up from the take-out counter. I will be present with all of these people who are doing things that make my life better!
No more humans as vending machines for me! Will you join me?
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