Customer Service vs. Valuable Human Interaction

Yesterday was pretty awful.

Not homogeneously bad. (Nothing is.) I spent all day helping with a Spanish activity day at an elementary school in Garden City, with my other classmates from FLAN 412 (aka the intense soul-sucking, life-monopolizing class). We got to run around with the kids a lot outside… doing a cake walk and playing “bolas” (based on the gauchos of Argentina). The Spanish teacher there is really great; she had everything so well organized. The kids were using an impressive amount of Spanish, and having a blast. During the afternoon I helped glue, string, and hang up 400 cut-out tissue paper banners. Yeah, literally 400 of them. That’s a lot. I glued and climbed on ladders to the point of absolute insanity. My voice was shot by the end from giving directions in both languages. (“Ahora equipo rojo…. no, no, don’t swing them around your head!”) It was an exhausting day but a lot of fun.

Over the course of the afternoon I also got a voicemail from the school in Detroit I last interviewed at… the middle-school Spanish position that I really, really want. They didn’t forget about me; they want me to come in and teach a demo lesson for them. I’m so nervous and excited.

After getting back from Garden City I went directly to work, pretty zombie-like and tired by this point. Very soon after I got there, a 10 year old girl got hit by a car in front of Caribou. I didn’t see it happen–just the aftermath. Apparently a 16 year old girl with a new driver’s permit was driving with her mom, and the little girl ran out in front of the minivan. She was thrown into the air by the collision, and was badly cut up and coughing up blood when the ambulance took her away. The very brief article I found today says she is in serious condition, so at least she is alive.

It was absolutely horrible. I couldn’t stop thinking about the students I had been working with all day, and how exciting it is to work with kids that age who are growing up so fast and learning new skills. And then somebody runs over a little kid and I don’t even know how to deal with that. Nobody knew how to deal with it. Dozens of customers came in and asked what had happened; the entire Packard/Stadium intersection was closed off for about an hour in all directions while the police investigated it. Each time I would say there had been an accident… they would ask if everyone was okay… I would explain… they would be horrified and say “oh my god, that’s terrible” or something equivalent, and we would stand there for a few moments feeling mutually traumatized. Then I would have to break the silence with something like: “so… do you want whipped cream on that mocha?” …which felt ridiculously awkward and trivial.

The whole thing made me realize again how much I want to be doing something worthwhile with my life, directly involved with helping people. Not just being a bean-slinger at some coffeeshop. I remember a while ago, when the husband of one of our regular customers died. She came in and met a friend and broke down crying, there in the store. Behind the counter we stood there very awkwardly… we see her every day, and felt horrible for her. But what can you do? Give someone a free coffee? An extra shot of chocolate? Essentially nothing.

I love working in a coffeehouse to some extent: I get to meet and interact with a lot of people (some more crazy than others… hoo boy) and it’s actually a really great place for networking… I’ve know so many teachers, doctors, lawyers, and other people involved in the community. I get to shmooze with cute babies, pet cute dogs, get cookies baked for me, get poems written for me (ha ha) and get hit on by creepos of every age (uh oh.) But when it comes down to it, I am actually doing nothing for these people other than making sure their latte gets the correct amount of foam.

The good news is that I am inching closer and closer to a job where I will be able to exhaust myself daily for something worthwhile. Keep your fingers crossed that I can go into this school and teach a fabulous lesson that knocks their collective socks off… leading to job offers and paychecks and benefits and hurray, hurray, hurray.

And the little girl is still alive; keep her (and the girl who hit her) in your prayers.

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