This is a series of events that really happened. It is a 2 part tale...at least.
Today I went to a cell phone store. It has been my 3rd visit between December 18th to present.
My phone has been due for an upgrade since November and because my current phone's back has been missing for 3 months; it was time.
In November of 2011, I got a phone with texting capabilities, and it changed (perhaps forever) the way I communicate. My 2014 upgrade I wanted more of the same. Not faster speed. Not the Internet.
(As a side note I am opposed on at least 2 fronts for having a Smart Phone. One is the philosophical opposition about society and our lack of connection which is enabled/ worsened by technology. The second is one of fear. I wonder how I will react to having instant gratification and knowledge at my fingertips, and if I have enough of whatever it takes to let myself wonder, think, remember, and forget.)
These qualms I hold up next to the knowledge that this technology is what the world has embraced, businesses and people alike. I wonder if resistance is futile and if I should instead learn to take the technology and mold it to my terms and values.)
Reconciling my feelings over several months, I decided to take the next step. After gathering recommendations from friends I went to the AT&T store prepared. Preparedness being a relative term, because how can a person be prepared and enter into an environment that's layout, delivery of information, seating is designed with confusion in mind?
Would you like to know what was in my survival kit? Hint: the opposite of technology.
A hardback of David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
My composition notebook
An old school calculator
Lipstick and gum (They don't hurt when you need to get good service.)
I shook Jon's hand, introduce myself while hearing piped in dance mix music that's a little too loud for conversational speech. I let him lead me to a high top table with seats that are not quite stools and not really chairs. If you sit down incorrectly, you can swivel right off. Believe me.
I was direct and asked many specific price point driven questions, took notes, made a grid and after what seemed like hours had Jon very flummoxed himself. He was doing a whole-handed face rub. I always interpret this as someone holding back what they want to say and massaging it out and off until they have to do it again to remain composed.
Poor Jon. I wasn't cooperating with the script.
But this was going better than the second to last time I had gone in, when I told the sales rep that he had made me very confused. That I was going home. And I was going to do research on my own.
But dear reader, this is not a complaining piece, because my time in the store took a positive turn.
While Jon was crunching numbers, and I was asking about the final bill and resisting the "value plan" he started to talk about not phone things.
I am not saying that at any point I was treating this man shabbily, I wasn't. In fact I was apologetic for having him run so many numbers and for my asking so many questions. I even told him a time or two, "I am not asking this because I don't trust you, I just don't know that I trust this plan is what it seems like."
I am fairly certain changing our dialogue helped him as well, from a non-verbal standpoint it did, but it absolutely helped me put in perspective that this was a person doing his job, was doing it well, and doing it as he'd been trained.
I don't recall which of these things happened first.
One was, "I don't think of myself as a retail person."
The other was, "Oh that was awkward. That's my ex's brother who just walked by."
But both of his statements were completely humanizing.
I was able to respond with, "I was horrible in retail. I only lasted 2 days."
And, "Oh him? He felt awkward too. I saw his face. Don't worry, there's glass between you."
Had this been a team building exercise these exchanges would have gotten us back on track. Because we were working towards a common goal. And we've had common experiences.
By the end of my time buying said phone I was solidly on team Jon. We were laughing. I got to see pictures of his dogs. I had ditched trying to use the chair and was standing to help me feel more grounded and stable.
I felt comfortable with my phone decisions and I left.
All because he let me realize that yes, he was working in a huge retail store, but he is a person.
Isn't it interesting that in the midst of my internal dilemma about technology and in the center of a phone store, I had a pure example of what it means to put down phones, learn, and relate to each other?
This is what I crave. This is what I want to protect. This is what I want to remember. People are everywhere. And we can connect.