Life I nearly lost my temper today. In public. With a complete stranger.
I was at a local discount emporium buying some discount things.
The person behind me in the queue was talking loudly into a mobile phone. Glancing surreptitiously over I thought, they're not going to stop talking on that mobile phone when she reaches the checkout. That conversation is going to continue right through the transaction, the shop assistant trying her best to offer excellent customer service while the person she's serving is ignoring her existence, unless she makes a mistake because she's distracted by this person the mobile phone having a conversation. She'll probably even pack the customer's bag for them and thank them for their custom even though they've been dehumanised to the point that they might as well be replaced with a self-service machine. Except not because they need the job.
This disappointed me, or rather I was disappointed with myself because I'd made this assumption about a fellow human. That my expectations of my own species are now so low, I just assume this pattern of behaviour from us.
Perhaps, when this person has noticed they're next, they will offer to call their contact back or end the call altogether if it's not especially important. What I'd do in fact, though it's rare I'd end up in a queue to begin with when in the middle of a phone call.
The shop assistant served me. The conversation behind me continued. I paid. I smiled and paused briefly. I wanted so desperately to wait, to see what would happen, to tell this stranger as they ignored the shop assistant just how rude they were being, how they were essentially treating this other person with utter contempt, but I slipped away because in the end, I'm a coward. A coward any day.
As I walked out of the shop, sure enough, fulfilling those low expectations I now have for some portions of humanity, they didn't stop talking on their mobile phone, the conversation continued right through the transaction, the shop assistant packing the person's bag, and what's more disappointing is that she had the resigned look of someone who'd been in this situation before, that this isn't an unusual situation.
How did we reach this point? How, in the space of only a few years, as the dance of respect that is a service industry transaction reached the point where customers, who probably expect some deep respect from the person and company they're requesting the service from, don't offer the same in kind? Certainly they'd be annoyed if the shop assistant decided to have a conversation in the middle of their transaction. Imagine if they were both at it. We'd be waiting even longer in queues.
Certainly it's true I've been in shops when the assistants have been having conversations and I've been ignored, which is the flipside of the situation.
Also that I shouldn't be that surprised. Mobile phone, or rather smart phones now, have become an excellent way of dividing the rude people, as in the people worth knowing, with the not.
But it feels like the breakdown of society is nearly complete when a person can't put their mobile phone away for the brief period it takes to carry out a transaction in the service industries, to treat the person they're buying stuff from with a modicum of respect.
Yes, through your purchases, you're paying their wages, but that's no excuse for treating them so badly. You horrible, horrible person.
Which is presumably what I could have said earlier. But let's face it, what would have been the point? If they're doing it in the first place, they're not going to understand why it's quite so wrong.