This morning while getting my coffee and breakfast wrap at the DD drivethru I watched a young person deal with stress and the real world possibly for the first time. It was quick and fleeting, but so real and reminiscent of my own early experience in the workplace that I immediately felt a great sense of empathy, and wished I could help.
The drivethru attendant couldn’t have been more than 19 years old, and obviously on the job for maybe five minutes. She was tiny and had big blue eyes that were open wide, and frantically trying to find her point of focus. Under the traditional server’s cap, strawberry blonde curls whipped back and forth between her two stone faced middle aged male managers as they took turns dictating instructions (where to place straws, register things, etc). They obviously intimidated her, and caused her to forget to hand me my wrap after I got my coffee.
The poor girl was obviously terrified, but was being a trooper. To her over-bearing managers all her responses were “yes” and “ok”, but you could tell her inner monologue was “omygodomygodomygod”. After a few beats she noticed me still waiting, and remembered my wrap. I wanted to tell her something reassuring to try calm her down, but with the two drill sergeants still barking orders in her face all I managed to crowbar in was “Good luck to you”, and then drove away.
What I really wanted to say was “Hey, don’t let these guys get to you. You’ll catch on. Just don’t take it too seriously.” Not really sure that would have helped either, but it might have.
It was surreal tho, like looking at a female version of myself 20 years ago. Thrust into the real world with demanding voices, alien devices and having no idea if you were going to fall flat on your face or manage to fake your way thru it, and somehow not get fired in your first week.
I have a soft spot for service workers, especially those who struggle, but try their ass off to accommodate a customer. It’s how I saw myself for a long time. I started as a twitchy nervous cashier who would hand back checks instead of receipts, and within a few months I was scanning behind my back while unsuccessfully flirting with every female co-worker in sight. I hope the new girl makes it, and I think she will. I could always spot the good ones.