No More Human Vending Machines

Twice recCell phone respectently 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?

Cylvia Hayes

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