One of my favourite and longest jobs was at the old green mermaid, located in a busy office tower in downtown Calgary. The shifts were early (I am an early riser, so, no trouble there), the store was busy, and the clientele were largely regulars. As a social extrovert, it was a perfect part-time job for me while I was in university.
A side effect of this particular role was seeing people around the city and recognizing them by their drink. Tall drip (ha!). Triple Venti Latte. Grande Nonfat Hazelnut Steamed Milk, aka “Tough Guy Special” (TGS on the cup). I would see them at a Flames game, or out for dinner, in the lobby of The Christmas Carol or at the park by the river; I saw those drinks walking around everywhere!
I remember about a year into that job, looking across the room at my church and seeing a man whom I recognized. Tall dark. Sometimes a bran muffin. He wasn’t chatty, but without fail, he had come in every day for that coffee.
A few weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I was in the lobby at a booth chatting about volunteering when up walks Tall Dark. I start chatting him up with the familiarity of old acquaintances, until I realized that he was looking back at me as if he had NEVER SEEN ME IN HIS LIFE!
I tell this story because in our shopping culture, and especially at this time of year, it is easy to forget about the humanity of the people behind the cash register.
Whether Tall Dark had a stressful job, or was super shy, or simply imperceptive, I have no idea. But, he interacted with me several times a week, without ever seeing me.
But the quick exchanges we have at the mall or the grocery store are still engagements with another human being – it’s a detail we simply can’t forget.
(With apologies to those who do not immediately recognize this reference!)
My eyes usually dart around between my wallet and the pinpad and the register screen and the décor… anything to distract me from my perceived awkwardness of, you know, looking at another person standing in front of me. But, I know from my own experience selling this year, that a look into my eyes, even from someone totally disinterested, makes all the difference in dignity.
If we can't manage eye contact, it's time to go home, take some rest, and get back in the game tomorrow.
Have a great week! I mean it...