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How May I Help You?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Her body language told the whole story. From her posture to how she used her hands. From her mouth to her eyebrows. And here’s what her body said: “You must help me, you piece of shit, because somehow this is all your fault.”

This woman, a stranger to me, stood not five feet to my left at Mac Authority. She was rude. She was livid. She treated the 20-something man attempting to help her as if he were the fourth footman of Downton Abbey.

A blonde woman in her 40s sat on the other side of this lady. We were both waiting for our computers to download and update, download and update, in the hopes we could walk out with healed machines. We weren’t happy to be stuck, but we accepted our fates, we knew this was the best of all bad options.

As this lady betwixt us, pissed off at the world and especially the young employee for Mac Authority, got more annoying, we began to look at one another. We rolled our eyes. We chuckled at her, hoping our shared amusement, firing over and around her like low-frequency radiation, might shame her. But people like this lady, who think the world exists to fix their problems, are oblivious to others; we couldn’t do anything for her, ergo we did not exist.

After this bitch left -- yeah, I said it -- we two smug and patient customers attempted to bait this young service rep. We’re on your side, buddy. We can’t believe you remained so calm and patient, even as it became obvious that the only flaw in her device was that she could no longer steal her ex-boyfriend’s Netflix. We’re better customers! Yay us! He never took the bait. He just graciously accepted our compliments on his behavior and moved onto the next assignment.

This experience occurred on the heels of news of the Rebellious Applebee’s Waitress who got fired for posting a receipt to the Internet. The receipt, signed by a female pastor, protested having to pay an 18% tip when she only gave God 10%. The public’s reaction has been merciless and, understandably, in support of the poor lady who got canned.

What kind of logic runs through someone’s head when they think God needs their money more than a waitress who earns jack shit for salary? What kind of Christian doesn’t see a deeper purpose in tips -- for beer, for a haircut, for shitty Applebee’s food -- especially when that person, a pastor, makes a living solely from the generosity of others in the name of a (supposedly) loving God?

What kind of society are we running where a woman, stormcloud over her head like some newfangled football helmet, can treat someone trying to help her at no cost -- they did not charge her anything for the help they attempted to render! -- as if he were not worthy to exist on even the soles of her cheap shoes? No “thank you.” No “please.” Just expectation, impatience and barely-bridled disgust.

Are we more inconsiderate now than we used to be or has it always been thus? Have we become so attuned to the fiscal nature of all relationships that we forget to be human, to be humane?

Have we given ourselves permission to loathe anyone paid by an entity whose product displeases us, as if the service rep for Mac Authority or Comcast or Applebee's is somehow burdened with the responsibility for corporation-wide quality control?

Are we losing the ability to respect one another on the most basic of terms? Is the notion that "We're all in this together" increasingly a mockable myth rather than a desirable aspiration?

Surely we can do better.

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