Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Something I Cannot Forget

A photo share from flickr.
Something happened almost two months ago that I haven’t been able to put out of my head. We were on our way to Indianapolis, Ginger and I, when we stopped at gas station to fill up.  It was one of those places found in every small community.
Constructed in pole barn fashion, the metal sided building was a chalky off white adorned with tobacco and lottery ticket advertisements.  Out front beside a display of antifreeze sat an ice chest.  As for the gas pumps, despite their flea market fresh appearance, they worked perfectly except for the card reader, display, selection buttons, and nozzle.  But that didn’t bother me; I was 50% sure they would dispense the right amount.  Yes, it was truly a small town pit stop.
Walking into the empty store I knew what to expect.  Standing behind a counter burdened with tobacco and lottery tickets would be a sole cashier; she smiled and said “Hello”.  In response, and in stereo, we asked, “How are you doin’ today?”  That question would ultimately be the catalyst for this thing I can’t forget.
Stunned by our inquiry, the middle aged lady jolted and stared at us with a shortage of words.  Probably expecting a demand for cigarettes or $3.52 worth of gas, our interest in her day was the last thing she expected.  Then, as if the shock had worn off, a smile crossed her face and she said, “Nobody ever asks me how I’m doing”.  “REALLY?”, we asked with equal surprise.  “Yeah, nobody EVER asks me how I am”.
Here was this nice lady, a typical hard working good hearted Midwesterner, doing a job that interacts with all levels of society, albeit on a superficial level, and not one person ever wonders or cares to ask how she is doing?  That depresses me and it’s something I’ve been unable to forget.
Has our society, more connected than ever, actually forgotten real people exist behind the names?  Why are we starved of nice people; lacking in role models?  How did being friendly become so rare it stands out like a brilliant yellow daffodil pushed up through a layer of snow?  And how many others out there feel invisible; overlooked by our obsessive drive for things?  That I even have reason to ponder these questions upsets me in ways I can’t explain.


Ken Bittner said...

With a post like this you (and Ginger) make me reach way inside myself and think.
It is truly amazing to me that we even have to be thinking about this kind of thing.
Ken Bittner

RayMan said...

More intriguing; perhaps, would have been the answer; if indeed, an answer was given at all.
Were I this person behind the counter, the response might have been this:

"I am surviving. That is, I'm doing the 'same' .... the same as yesterday, and the day before, and the week before, and the month, year and decade before.
I have a degree in finance from the University of Rhode Island, and a Masters in International Relations from John Hopkins. I have spent the last six years submitting resumes, engaging in on-line interviews and several face-to-face contacts with companies as far away as Chicago and Pittsburgh.
I am lucky enough to be behind this counter because I lied on the job application; saying I was a high school drop-out with a GED equivalent. This made me a 'qualified applicant'; therefore, securing this position; which enabled me to have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in my belly."

This might help in securing some kind of explanation as to why some persons appear lethargic and disengaged in an environment of world-wide digital connectivity.

Very Respectfully,