It seems to me that we come into contact with talented, capable folks every day, but often don’t realize how competent they are. The reason? They provide us with service of some kind, which we expect and accept, but we usually don’t pay much attention to those who provide the service - they are essentially “invisible” people.
Yep, we simply take them and their work for granted, . That’s the thought triggered in my noggin by some recent events.
Not long ago I had occasion to visit our local bank. As I entered I noticed there were no other customers waiting but the ladies in the two teller windows were both busy with some kind of paperwork. Jan, however, looked up, recognized me, and beckoned me to come to her window. She then said something like, “ Hi, I’ll be with you in a minute.” and proceeded to feed pieces of paper rapidly into a machine, punch keys or buttons, and made short order of the task. Frankly I was fascinated with her speed and accuracy and asked her if there was some special school to learn how to do all that kinda stuff. She laughed and said, “No school, — just years of experience and I’m still learning.”
When my business was concluded there were still no customers waiting so Jan and I had a few minutes to chat - actually she was answering my questions about her job. The gist of that conversation was how each customer Jan sees has some particular need or problem to be addressed and expects her to be knowledgeable about and capable of handling. In short, she is responsible to make sure the customer walks away satisfied regardless of how difficult or complex the need or problem might be. The irony is that the more successful she is in applying her knowledge and proficiency the more she becomes one of the “invisible” people. Hmm. How about them apples?
OK, stay with me because I’m changing the setting, but I’m staying on subject. Not long ago my Sweetheart-for-Life had a “girls’ night out” with some longtime friends leaving me to take care of my own evening meal. Instead of exercising my own culinary expertise I decided to visit a very popular local combination bar and restaurant so I could enjoy someone else’s cooking.
When I arrived I was told to sit anywhere I wished and so chose a place just inside the bar - a spot against the wall perfectly suited for a guy eating alone. I was shortly approached by Barbara, my “server” - I still prefer “waitress”, but don’t want to alert the “politically correct” police. Anyway, I knew what I wanted (fish and chips with a tall, cool one) so ordering didn’t take long. She said she would get my order in right away - which she promptly did by keying in the information on a wall-mounted electronic device. She reappeared shortly with my drink and not long afterwards with my salad.
As I was waiting for my hot food, I took the opportunity to kinda look around — I was in position to see the entire bar and a good portion of the restaurant area.
I soon realized I was watching some really talented, experienced “servers” at work. These young women were almost constantly in motion - each taking care of a number of customers all at the same time. I was impressed by the way they tracked where each customer was in the seating/ordering/eating/departing process.
And talk about economy of motion - these servers moved so smoothly from one task to another the scene almost looked as if it was choreographed. In particular I noticed how the servers kept track of when food was delivered from the kitchen to a food staging area. Boy, that food was picked up and delivered in a minute or two - and so Barbara served my fish and chips hot the way they should be served. But guess what? Here was another situation where the more successful the service provider is, the more “invisible”, the more faceless, that individual becomes. Kinda contradictory notions aren’t they?
Contradictory, but true. Jobs like these, and there are many, aren’t rocket science or brain surgery, but they sure aren’t easy. Nope, to the contrary they require skill, knowledge, and are demanding - mentally, psychologically and often physically. It’s just that we generally don’t recognize the worth of those filling these jobs.
You know, a simple “Thank you” followed by the person’s name would go a long way towards putting a face on the faceless and penetrating that shroud of invisibility society has placed on these friends and neighbors who provide us with such valuable service. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.