Here’s the scenario: I was at the dreaded Post Office standing in a line formed from the pits of Hades. There were two veteran clerks manning the desk and moving things along at the speed of molasses. Ever so slowly, they would call the next person in line by stating their monotone and rehearsed “I caaan help the neexxt person in liiinnne….” I stood and watched this happen over and over again. It was amazing how they could execute this routine without even a twitch of life evident in their dead, emotionless faces. But I guess that’s it right? The routine kills them. Each person that approached the counter met the same cold stare and flat questions about delivery confirmation and postage products which continued throughout the transaction….and transaction…and transaction!
Sigh. I should have know better than to think I could make a QUICK stop at this place. Anyhow, while fidgeting in line I glanced up and recognized someone I knew two people ahead of me. I extended my greetings and engaged in brief small talk.
The summons game to the individual I knew and he approached the counter. Now what I need to inform you is that others may know him too because he used to play professional ball in this area. As soon as his physical mass hit the counter the clerk suddenly sprang to life-like he took a ZAP from an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).
He excitedly chirped “Well, Hello [insert name]! It’s nice to see you. How were your Holidays? Did they treat you alright?”
Whoa, whoa, WHOA! A personal greeting and THREE emotion filled questions in a row? Three questions not related to postage stamps or postage products? The individual answered the questions and they had a nice dialogue filled with smiles and laughter.
OOOkaaay. I’d like to give the clerk the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he suddenly woke up or something. Maybe he doesn’t come alive until the 100th customer of the day. Maybe his body just processed the food from lunch and jolted him with a whopping dose of sugar.
Soon it would be my turn. I quickly glanced at myself because my daughter frequently accuses me of sporting a perfected homeless look. Hey, I have to dress up so many days of the week that when I have the opportunity to don the frayed jeans (the bigger the holes, the better) T-shirt and tennis shoes I do so with pride.
I know that homeless people can look unwelcoming to some and did not want to appear scary for this experiment. But I’m happy to say that, this time I dressed professionally.
The female clerk called the person ahead of me which left me with Mr. Suddenly Come Alive. I heard him say “I caaan help the neeexxt person in liiinne.” I walked to the counter and smiled a warm friendly smile, not too overdone or it becomes downright creepy. I handed him my two envelopes for international mailing and requested a book of stamps. He stared back at me with that blank stare void of emotion and asked flatly about the need for delivery confirmation or additional postage products. I waited for some spark of the personality that he demonstrated minutes before. Nada, Nothing. Apparently Mr. Come Alive has returned to the land of the living dead. He flatlined. I think we need to bring back the human AED to his counter!
So why am I writing about this? Do I care about the preferential personality and small talk from Mr. Come Alive? Nope. Not particularly. But here is the deal. It is human nature to segregate individuals. We judge, measure, rate, class and treat people according to these categories which, are 99.9% of the time external or performance oriented deductions. The Post Office scene was a vivid example on a minor scale. However, I realized as I watched the episode play out that I don’t want to act like that. I don’t want the natural tendencies of our culture to become my normal. I want to warmly welcome all. Each encounter I have with people should reflect sincerity and fairness to all – not just toward those whom society deems worthy.
So here is my challenge: We all judge and behave accordingly. We need to….
S T O P.
Let’s see if we can go an entire week without judging or treating people how we think they should be treated based on notoriety or external assumptions. Let me know how it goes! As you begin to stop the cycle you’ll be amazed how many Post Office scenario scenes you will witness!