I grew up in the deserts of Washington state and spent my formative years in a ghost town with 400 residents; the nearest city 90 miles away.Â Not surprisingly, I know a lot about being a loner, an outsider, and a freak.Â When I went to college pursuing a degree in Web Development, web designers were pulling in six figure salaries in this brave new world; it was the new-tech equivalent to becoming an MD.
However, as I graduated with hope glowing like LCD screens in my eyes, the dot-com crash occurred and pulled the plug on thousands of jobs in the web industry.Â New grads like I was couldnâ€™t get a job with a reputable company to save our souls, even in a tech-savvy state like Washington (which is home to Microsoft , Boeing, and Nintendo of America).Â Half the country had written off the web as a fad that had gone the way of the pet rock and I found myself looking for any job that could let me pay my bills.
That was when I learned that there were jobs that only the true outcasts took: consumer sales. I understood that the truest freak is the freak with a name badge.
You might think that car salesmen are considered the lowest form of species in our culture, but, actually, theyâ€™re considered upstanding citizens compared to those in the career I found myself in: computer sales.Â Now that may sound strange unless you think back on conversations youâ€™ve heard about, been around, or even participated in revolving around both cars and computers.Â Have you ever heard anyone say: Yâ€™know, cars are so dang cheap these days you can pick up a brand new one for $200??Â How about: The technology is getting so cheap that theyâ€™re giving a car away with any purchase over $300?Â Nope, you havenâ€™t.Â However, youâ€™ve heard people say it about computers!
So every time someone comes in to a computer store and finds that their dream computer isnâ€™t $200 (which their grandson assured them it would be), they immediately assume that the salesman is trying to con them!Â (Of course, it got even worse when it came to the ill-conceived notion of â€œtrade-inâ€ credit on computers.Â After all, thereâ€™s a blue book on cars that shows how much they depreciate over the years.Â For computers, however, they couldnâ€™t print up a bluebooks fast enough to make it worth it.Â Thatâ€™s quite simply because if cars had the same technology increases we see in computers for just four years, then, cars that today max at 120 mph and have a gas mileage of 40 mpg,Â in 2017, would have aÂ max speed of 960 mph and would go 320 miles on a gallon of gas!)
So what does me spending a number of years on the other side of the aisle have to do with modern life?Â Well, sometimes, when we think about being outsiders, we can start to see certain divisions as more important than others.Â First, itâ€™s whoâ€™s Goth and whoâ€™s not; then itâ€™s what type of Goth are you, Victorian, Steampunk, Cybergoth, etc.Â However, if we widen our gaze a little bit, we could easily see that there are tons of other freaks and outcasts all around us.Â And usually the ones with the name badges who give us all the conveniences of modern life get it the worst!
The person at the shoe store whoâ€™s being berated by a customer because her cash register isnâ€™t working right; the stammering kid behind the counter at the local burger joint who keeps having to repeat your order because heâ€™s nervous; the behind the counter salad loader at the local pizza buffet who keeps having to clean up croutons and spilled bleu cheese dressing.Â They all feel just as isolated in their jobs as we may feel in other parts of our lives and, as weâ€™re the customers, they see us as the people who are often making their lives hell.
How empowering it is then to be the person in line who doesnâ€™t freak out when the salesmanâ€™s computer crashes on them?Â How cool is it to see that person whoâ€™s struggling just to get through the day take a sigh of relief because you showed your not â€œanother jackassâ€ customer by giving them some empathy?Â It takes so little to pass it forward if weâ€™ll just look out for the other freaks around us and put ourselves in their place!
My karate sensei was known to give harried waitresses $100 tips, because he figured the harried ones had the most dire circumstances they were trying to work through.Â I donâ€™t have the money to do that (although I wish I could and make sure that I tip as generously as possible), but sometimes itâ€™s something as simple as noticing that the buried store clerk is out of bags, asking another teller if you can have some for her colleague, and then putting them in for her.Â Five seconds for you that could easily save her five minutes and numerous cantankerous sighs from other customers!
Itâ€™s so tempting to hide from annoying, claustrophobic situations where people are all clustered around us and play a game on the smartphone.Â And, hey, I love a game of Dark Meadow (minus the ending) or Skee-Ball 2 as much as anyone else, but letâ€™s look a little farther than the glowing screen and see if thereâ€™s someone whose day we could make a little better, rather than a little worse.