Christy decides ahead of time that she’ll make friends with the cashier at Target. She gets as nervous as I do about it, though for different reasons. She’s scared of breaking social boundaries. I’m scared of being social with strangers (even as a child, when we would “share the peace,” I preferred to keep the peace to myself).
She second-guesses the friend request for a moment when she realizes that the cashier is a little bit slower mentally (I can’t think of a politically correct way to write that) and she’s scared that it will look as though she’s messing with him.
“Did you find everything okay?”
“Yes,” she says.
“Is there anything you need?”
“Yeah, but I’m forgetting something, but I can’t remember what it is.”
“I can’t help you with those kinds of things. I’m not your hairdresser or nail person.”
“Well, you can be my friend. I was wondering if you’d accept a friend request.” She then explains what all is required of a Living Facebook friend.
“Okay. I accept it.”
“My status is that I just got some great deals. Want to comment on it?”
He shakes his head.
“What’s your status update?”
“My status update is that I just had a customer twenty minutes ago who ruined my numbers. I was a one hundred and they just took their precious time and now I’m at a ninety eight.”
“Can I comment on that?”
“That’s too bad. I think you’re a great cashier.”
“You can also leave a comment over there,” he points to the customer service booth.
So she meanders over and asks for a comment card. “Hey, what’s that cashier’s name over there?” She points back. The woman gets a guarded look, as if to say, “you’d better not be complaining about him.” Christy finishes filling out the card, but the woman is gone. I guess it’s possible in real life to scroll past comments.
Christy thinks this is something we should do when the experiment is over. We could pay closer attention to the people around us and quit treating service workers like vending machines. We could write letters to the managers or leave comment cards at customer service. True, we can become a fan of the Target corporation, but it’s at the human, local level that it matters.
It has me thinking about education reform. Random, perhaps. But perhaps the greatest change that needs to happen is not the latest tech or the inclusion of social media, but a recovery of the human element. It has me thinking about the moments (testing season comes to mind) when I felt isolated in a box like a vending machine, checking out the ScanTronned minds until we all felt like a commodity. And I’m struck that it was often a comment from a student or a parent that pushed me back toward remembering that education is not a business. It’s a relationship.