The PRE-Occupied Movement
Remember when we used to joke, “I bet she can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!” Walking and chewing gum used to be the ultimate prize in multi-tasking. Now we eat, talk on the phone, send an email, listen to music, do our make-up and change clothes—all while we’re driving in the car on the way to work! “Multi-tasking” is a must on anyone’s resume. If you can’t PDF a document while giving a PowerPoint presentation as you make a sale over the phone, an employer won’t consider hiring you.
But are we really multi-tasking, or have we become rudely preoccupied?
I used to work as a barista, and I loved it. (And my foam rocked. If you like a nice foam on your cappuccino, get skim milk, it foams better. You’re welcome.) And, as a barista (as well as any other customer service-type job), you better believe I had my share of rude customers.
I was reminded of these lovely customers not too long ago while I was in line to buy my lunch at a café. The man in front of me was buying a small cup of coffee with a $20 bill. So the very friendly cashier counted out his change and gave him his receipt. Well, I knew he was going to be a pain in the rear as soon as I saw that he had on his iPod.
As the cashier was giving him his change and receipt, he started shaking his finger at her (iPods prevent you from speaking, apparently). So, the finger shaking is now totally up for interpretation: a.) He changed his mind and doesn’t want the coffee, b.) He’s actually super nice and wants the cashier to keep the $18 in change as a tip, or c.) He’s listening to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies—Put a Ring on It” and is doing the choreography for the cashier’s pleasure.
Well, it was actually d.) None of the above. I’ve experienced this before. The answer was: e.) He didn’t want his receipt. He’s what I like to call the “I-Don’t-Want-This-You-Take-It” customer. Gum wrappers, straw wrappers, pennies…the counter between the customer and cashier suddenly becomes a vast space where trash is welcome. (Why customers think this, I have no idea.)
But this guy took the “I-Don’t-Want-This-You-Take-It” customer title up another notch by adding the “I’m-Too-Preoccupied-to-Be-Polite” title. (People who refuse to get off their cell phones while ordering fall under this title as well.) A simple, “I don’t need my receipt, thank you!” would have been acceptable. But alas, instead he proceeded to play charades with the café worker instead of just taking the darn receipt (or, God forbid, take out his ear buds so he could converse with her).
I gave him the evil eye and snarled, “[Enter not so nice name here ending with ‘bag’],” in his direction as he walked away. The cashier started laughing and said, “I heard what you just said!” I went on my little tirade about how rude people can be. She nodded in acknowledgement and we each laughed some more.
As she handed me my change, she looked at me, grinned, and said, “Would you like your receipt?” I grinned back and said, “Yes, please!” I’d like to think I brightened her day and helped her realize there are some of us who understand and know what it’s like to have to deal with charade-playing, preoccupied, iPod-addicted rudeness.
Customers, co-workers, spouses, friends—doesn’t matter who it is—we’ve all had to deal with someone who is too preoccupied with their phones, iPods, work, etc. and give up trying to communicate with them. Should we continue to praise the multi-tasker? Or should “excellent single-tasker” take its place on your resume?
Not sure I have the perfect answer. I just hope the “I can’t speak when listening to my iPod” guy didn’t try to drink his coffee and walk at the same time. I have a feeling it wouldn’t turn out so well. (And I sure as hell hope he didn’t have “great multi-tasker” on his resume.)