Transaction relationships

I launched my app, swiped through to my warm-weather usual (30 oz hibiscus iced tea, no sweet stuff), tapped the closest store, and pressed “order.”

I parked the car, grabbed my purse because 1 Corinthians 8:9, strode across the drive and into the store, moved between two phone-absorbed middle-aged men (“Excuse me, please, gentlemen.”),  grabbed my tea and a straw, 

and called out, “Thank y’all so much!” as I turned and left.


I love me some human-free ordering when I know what I want. I love that, in the case above, neither of us is waiting on each other: the request magically appears in their queue for them to handle when appropriate, I waltz in when I get there, grab, and go. I’m good with an absence of interaction; this is business, and we are neither colleagues nor friends. Since we don’t have to wait for each other, we’re not even allies in shared endurance, the way we would be on the bus.

But I couldn’t bring myself to go without acknowledging the staffers at least a little.

I’m inclined to blame this on the Pillars of Gibraltar, standing 2′ apart and oblivious. Nothing like being ignored–friends, I pushed through them–to spur me to set an example of how to do this better. I could’ve been inspired by the attached elementary-ager, too, given my bias toward teaching through action.

Mostly, I expect it was Just What I Do Anyway, made more apparent by said Pillars.

Part of the reason I really like order-by-app is that it matters to me that I treat staffers well…whether I want to ‘do people’ or not. When I order-by-app, I’ve reduced our contact time, so I can meet my standard and conserve my extraversion. But as I say, I still smile, and speak.

In one version of this post, I would describe for you the examples my mother and grandmothers set for this behavior. I can’t recall ever seeing anything but graciousness, even on the rare (rare!) occasions a transaction made one of them angry. There’s a way to graciously fight for one’s rights, though it does involve a prodigious amount of stubbornness and smiles are no longer included.

In that version, I might even make up a connection between said behavior and the works of the poet Sir Walter Scott, beloved in the antebellum, bellum, and post-bellum South for his romantic tales of non-existent chivalrous times. It would sound convincing, even though I’ve done no research.

In another version, I would trace my geas to my work in computer technical support. Unlike being a cashier, or a barista, tech support is often reasonably-, even well-compensated, but the slings and arrows of working with the public are still there. Given the amount of collateral injury dealt to anyone in a customer service role–Bad day at the office? Growl at the cashier I mean kick the dog–I want to do my part to even the balance.

Besides, what does it cost me? I mean, even on a low-social-energy day, what’s the price of my smile?

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before: during her freshling year B commented that, when she was out doing business in her Oakland neighborhood, she would prompt herself with, “What would Mom do?!” then smile and chat with clerks and cashiers. I repeat the memory to myself because it makes me smile–

not just to know that there’s another generation of kindness to customer service workers,

but to imagine and remember the huge payoff when this Southern social norm is implemented in the Northeast. “Mom! She was so happy! She just kept talking! It’s not like I actually care what she had to say or anything-!”

I know. But that’s not what matters, is it? What matters is that we are two humans, intersecting in a space, and both of us happily acknowledge our humanness and our intersection.

That 30-second relationship is a transaction worth adding to the tab.

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