In blogspace, nobody can necessarily hear you scream…which is precisely what I want to do right now.
I saw something this morning at my local Panera.
There was this guy. And he appeared to be talking to himself, until I realized that he had a headset in his ear.
You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now. When I worked in software engineering, it wasn’t terribly uncommon to see the folks in marketing walking down the hall talking to themselves–or rather, talking to the big foam ball that covered the microphone in front of them. It’ not that they had to walk and talk, it’s that wireless headsets had given them a feeling of empowerment.
I see lots of young people (I’m 55, so I get to call almost everyone “young”) doing the same thing, but fewer than you’d think. For them, it’s mostly texting, not speaking.
But this guy was my age. And he talked and listened to the person on the other end while waiting in line, while giving his order, while paying, and while taking his order. He was talking to both the person on the other end of the line and the barrista. But he was only listening to the person on the other end of the line.
I hate headsets.
Have you ever been in a doctor’s office talking to the receptionist when you ceased to exist? The receptionist is looking at you but thinking of–and speaking to–someone else. Someone on the phone. S/he’s lost focus. You no longer exist.
This is what we inflict on other people when we use headsets in public–which, honestly, is pretty much the only time we need to use headsets.
You are implicitly telling the physical person in front of you that you’re dealing with someone more important than they are. That as far as you’re concerned, the physical person doesn’t exist.
I suppose what I saw this morning was a worst-case example; what could have been a pleasant interaction with another human being instead turned the barrista into nothing more than a machine to supply coffee and a bearclaw to that guy.
So. The takeaway? Don’t be that guy. Treat people around you as ends instead of means, as valuable and worthy of your attention in and of themselves. A kind word, a thank you, eye contact.
Don’t just be nice. Concentrate on being nice.