Baristas are people, too

IMG_2036Today, I happened to stop by a sandwich shop and saw this sign at the cash register. It reminded me of the consciousness shift that I see everywhere. We want to be treated as people with needs, wishes, dreams, as well as fears and challenges – not objects, placed within a system to complete a specific task; replaceable upon notice; a cog in a wheel.

As I contemplate, coach around and write about this topic, I find it encouraging that more people notice that we’ve designed our societies around efficiency, immediacy and fast, automated responses. No emotions, no engagement, no obligation, no accountability. Some people like it, others don’t. Whether we like it or not, it’s an expensive proposition. Living in a mechanized society deprives us from the uplifting energy that social interaction creates in our lives.

Humans are social animals – we forget that.

Upon inquiring about the sign in the sandwich shop, the person at the cash register said everyone working at that shop gets tired of being treated like an object. He says they (the baristas) are expected to attend to everyone’s needs quickly, without any glitches, and accommodate multi-taskers who talk on the phone while ordering and paying for food at the same time. Apparently, this makes the customers slow, inefficient and rude. Apparently, even the people who “look” educated treat the baristas in disrespectful ways – this comment leaving me with the impression that rude behavior might be perceived as a classist concern.

Privately, I was happy that I found a sign placed where all could see: “Baristas are people, too!” I’m happy people are voicing their dissatisfaction with the way we treat each other in society. We demand efficient interactions, while they leave us feeling isolated and alone. We crave to share a smile or eye contact that can feed the soul and transform our days from routine to something special.

What struck me about the baristas’ complaint was the contradiction. While they want to be treated as people, they, too, were thinking about the multi-tasking customers like objects! They wanted to be treated with respect, being given orders that are clear, concise, with cash in-hand to make the transactions fast and smooth. They want smiles on customers’ faces, eye contact that shows respect (in their cultures) and a sense of connection in this family-owned shop. This behavior makes them feel good and their jobs easier, providing them with flow. At the same time, the baristas criticized customers who are multi-tasking, not only because they don’t connect through eye contact or other pleasantries, but because they’re inefficient, as they’re talking on the phone, perusing the menu, searching for their wallets – all behavior that makes people have to wait. They wanted the object-like efficiency from their customers, while complaining they’re not being treated as people!

I left there wondering what it will take for us each to notice the incongruence between what we want and what we actually do to others…

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