I have a great little story to share.
Ingenuity sometimes wins. My new camera was scheduled to arrive yesterday. Online, I had tracked the progress of my package across the country: New Jersey, Memphis, Baton Rouge, local delivery truck. Suddenly, midmorning, a bold red announcement across the screen: delivery would be delayed by a week! A puzzled phone call to the delivery company elicited first, a canned speech that the package arrival date was just an estimate. When pressed, the company man looked at his own computer, and advised me that a delivery had been attempted early in the morning, before my business location was open. Back went my package into the system. Make a second delivery? Nope, said the company man. Not our policy. Possibly Tuesday, he said. Round and round we went, until the annoyed company man, tired of repeating the policy, forwarded my call to a young woman in the local office. I’ll call her Tonya.
Hmmm, she said. I know who’s driving that truck. It’s Sharon (also not her real name). I bet we can figure out a place you two can meet. Let me give you her cellphone number. Tonya and Sharon had already spoken by the time I called. We needed an interception point halfway between us that would not take her off her route, which would mean trouble. What about the Sonic by Benny’s Carwash, she suggested, and offered directions. Call me when you’re close; I’m in a nearby subdivision, and I’ll be there. And she was. NASA would be proud. The company man, presumably, not so much. Tonya and Sharon responded to me as individuals, and put themselves in my situation. They treated me better than the company had intended, and I am grateful. Wish I had thought to bring coffee.
Perhaps people who live in small towns have this experience all the time; online, it’s not been my experience very often. We are accustomed to being routed through layers of customer service menus and answers to Frequently Asked Questions; when we finally get to speak with a human, the encounter lacks something in the empathy department, not to mention spontaneity or creative problem solving. A brief encounter with two strangers reminded me that small human interactions really do mean something. We all reclaimed a little bit of autonomy yesterday, by holding onto our sense that we were three women with compatible goals, and an interest in our brief human relationship, even though it wasn’t company protocol. We all had a satisfying little adventure.
We have no trouble noticing small daily breakdowns of communication, and abrasive encounters that leave us feeling chronically irritated and disconnected from other people, with cynically low expectations. It’s not a bad idea to notice the small exceptional moments, when something goes unexpectedly right. When we awaken to the possibility, perhaps we can make it happen more often.