When I was in high school, I worked at a woman’s shoe store. It was a very popular store in town. The owner, however, was not the greatest when it came to dealing with customers. He didn’t necessarily have what we here in America call great “people skills.” He got extremely frustrated when women came in asking if we carried narrow sizes. (We did not carry narrow sizes. Or wide sizes. So just stop asking.)
So, when women came into the store whom the staff knew were going to (a) ask for narrow or wide sizes or (b) were women whose personality really just irritated the owner, we all made sure that he was hidden away in the back of the store. I may or may not be related to said owner, so I will say no more except that the customer service was always a little bit better when he was happily tucked away in the back (looking at the shoe store inventory or whatever he did back there to pass the time.)
I am here in my hometown for the summer. As my children are in various camps, I have time to drive around town and ponder how things have changed since I moved away almost 20 years ago. I drive by my old local bank and wonder if they still have 43 cents in my childhood account, since I never actually closed it out. (That was my account balance when I last checked on it in 1995. Has it earned interest?) I drive by my old tennis club and ponder running in to see if they ever found my tennis racquet that I lost there 28 years ago. (I quit tennis shortly after I lost my racquet, so I do think it’s a valid question.)
I try to visit the old mall where said shoe store was located, and cannot seem to get to it as they have torn up all familiar roads and added traffic circles. Somehow, I keep ending up at my old dermatologist’s office. (This is probably because I went there a lot as a teenager to get my facial acne “sprayed” by frozen nitrogen, something I don’t think they can legally do to people anymore because I actually think it was meant to put out forest fires.) I look in the mirror here and realize that the midwestern humidity is making me look exactly like Judi Benjamin in “Private Benjamin” when she drops out of the army, moves to France, dyes her hair red, moves in with a Jewish doctor, and then goes crazy.
Yesterday, I took in my broken IPad to a local repair shop to repair its shattered glass (I was attempting to ride an exercise bicycle from the 1970s in my rental home while watching a movie, when the IPad hit the built-in fan on the bike and fell to the floor.) The man that owned the shop was, to put in mildly, extremely unpleasant. How unpleasant? He was “Donald Trump I don’t like Mexicans or Asians” unpleasant.
I left there in a state of shock at the way I was treated. But the more that I think about it, I don’t think that I have found good customer service anywhere in a long time. Teenagers and young adults work the counters and retail stores just like I did, but they are so busy playing on the internet that they don’t seem to care if anyone needs help. So many stores and restaurants have such distracted staff members that I find myself stunned when anyone actually notices that I am there.
Two of my three kids are away at sleep-away camp to “de-program” from their electronics and commune with nature (or whatever they are doing there. They are probably making out with other teens.)
As I spend my summer attempting to finish the sequel to my book, which is all about the difficulties of raising teens in the internet age, I am in no shortage of material while they are away. Because even if I am not watching my own kids snap selfies all day long or snap-chatting on Instagram, I am slowly watching the entire world forget that anyone is in the room with them.
I wish there were people like my shoe store staff to swoop in and hide the employees that have no idea how to interact with people. I wish there were employees everywhere whose sole job it is is to hide the owner who gets frustrated with women who want narrow sizes. Or, in my case, to hide the person who gets frustrated when I ask how long it will take to fix my IPad.
Maybe one day the world around us will return to normal. But probably not. Technology has made us better: it has improved exercise machinery from the days of bikes with built-in-fans and updated modern medicine to outlaw the frozen-nitrogen-spraying of humans. Technology has invented an endless amount of opportunities.
It just forgot to invent something teach us how to use this new technology and interact with people at the same time.
Loved the book? Watch for “Mom On The Road” movie coming soon to a theatre near you! (And by “soon” I mean one day in the very, very near future when a Hollywood agent picks it up from the “slush pile” without reading it and then he/she hands it off to a plucky young assistant and tells them to “see what you can do” and the assistant goes home and whips off an amazing script and gives it to her agent boss and then he or she takes it and it then it gets made into a movie. But then the agent tries to take full credit for the script and the assistant is sad until the producers of the movie realize that she wrote it and not the agent who took credit for it and the assistant is promoted to agent and the agent gets fired and ends up working for her as her assistant. The end. )