I wish that I were brave enough to speak out against injustice or to confront people when they’re being mean. To intervene in the moment is dangerous. There is so much rage in the world.
On Sunday, I stopped at a convenience store that does a brisk business in made-to-order sandwiches and drinks. There were two young ladies behind the counter and a large accumulation of hungry people holding claim tags for their lunches.
One man was very vocal and angry about the fact that only one of his sandwiches had been made. “Where is the other one?” He stood there with arms crossed growing increasingly indignant. His teenaged son’s attempts to calm him down, only incited more anger. I was afraid to say anything to him.
The girls hustled to get him that missing sandwich as quickly as they possibly could. The smaller of the two passed the bag over the counter as she apologized for the mix-up. The angry guy grabbed it and stormed away, grumbling.
And then she melted into tears. Tears of frustration and exhaustion. She had to leave to compose herself, but in a few minutes she returned to making food for the masses as quickly as she could. I saw her making my sandwich, switching to another while mine was heating and preparing a salad at another station. Her eyes were focused on the monitor above to make sure that each item was just what the customer ordered.
An older woman finally came to help. She was the one who placed my sandwich on the counter. I had hoped that it would be the girl who had cried so I could talk to her.
I started to leave, but only made it to the door. I had to talk to her.
I approached the counter and asked if I could speak with the young lady in the back, pointing in her direction. She came over and I could see fear in her eyes.
I said,“I saw how that man treated you and it was not right. You deserve better.” Her co-worker approached then. They told me that everything they do is timed. It’s very high pressure. It was obvious that they are rarely thanked.
“You work really hard. Anyone with eyes can see that. I just want you to know that I appreciate your hard work. I appreciate what you do.” I felt somewhat foolish. I was struggling to get the words out through unexpected tears. We ignore unseen people who serve us quickly, accurately and with a smile, until they make a mistake or can’t keep up. We have no empathy for the fact that they are people, not machines.
I’ve been hearing the song “Under Pressure” quite often since David Bowie’s death a week ago. He wrote and performed that song with Queen more than 30 years ago.
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re breaking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give love that one more chance
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And love (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Pressure in the 1980s wasn’t even close to the stress we endure now despite and because of the technology at our fingertips. Why can’t we give ourselves one more chance and care for the people on the street…or in the convenience store?
#convenience, #empathy, #tears, #pressure, #Bowie