I stopped by a local nursery today to pick up some garden compost. Luckily the gate was open and I was able to park near it knowing the bags are cumbersome, heavy, and I would need to get them into the car by myself.

The attendant was a young Hispanic man with acne scars and earbuds clearly not wanting to be disturbed. In fact he was hiding and I had to ask him if he worked there because I wasn’t sure. He nodded. “Are there any carts “I asked. “No” he said and put his earbud back in. I asked where the carts were and he said I needed to go to the front of the store to get one. It’s a big store! I mentioned that if he made sure there were carts in the Garden section when he started his shift, people would buy more. I noticed other shoppers carrying their items in their arms and hands trying to make it to the checkout without dropping anything.

Next was the Soil area, and as I struggled to get a bag into the cart, a kindly gentleman asked if he could help. Nice. Thank you, Sir!

 Customer service took a turn during and now after COVID, across the board. I’m probably preaching to the choir here but how many of us have needed to talk to a banker or customer service person for any variety of reasons: cable issues, questions about a bill, attempting to print out a return label, the list goes on and then had to wait too long only to be connected to an agent in a foreign country who has such a thick accent we can’t get our problem resolved in one phone call or we are sent to the website by a robot and can’t get through to a live person at all?

 I often wonder how the disadvantaged, or people with compromised technological skills are coping with the hands-off approach to life these days? Folks who live alone, don’t have family or friends to help them may not even have a computer and if they have a cell phone may not know how to manage appointments themselves.

 Our cultural infrastructure collapsed during Covid and hasn’t come back to where we are looked after and cared for by the companies we do business with.

 We became so isolated during the lockdown that touching or getting close to other people became a life-threatening, scary thing. People are infected and dirty was the message. Now in recovery, we are dealing with many levels of post Covid PTSD.

 I own a business where I come into contact with customers in an up close and personal way: Professional Skin Care. My business, Skin Deep Beauty & Beyond in San Jose, Ca. has survived a few recessions(three), 9/11, Covid, Housing Crisis, and more (too many to mention) and yet, here I am. Each event has had its own set of circumstances and adjustments necessary to continue. It’s been quite a journey.

 With each set back I gave more. Tried harder, worked more days and hours, came in early and stayed late. I gave what I wanted to receive especially when expecting customer service and personal attention. 

 Even at Dr. appointments now I don’t feel as cared for as I should. I had a scan done recently and a gel was used to facilitate the device. When finished the technician handed me a small rough paper towel and expected me to clean up with that. I asked him if he had any wet wipes and he said no. I suggested that he pick some up at Costco or even the Dollar Store for his patients. He answered with a shoulder shrug.

 I take these experiences with me and add more care to how my own customers are treated. At least during their time with me they are respected, listened to and comforted.

 I see all of this as an opportunity for us to recover as a people, a culture. To re-build America piece by piece, act by act, helping each other in any way we can, consciously, as the man did today helping me with the bag of dirt at the nursery.

Mary Elizabeth Wist

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