It just happened. I thought it never would. For the first time ever, a random stranger on the phone actually considered the context of our conversation and self-edited. This has never happened before.
Here’s the scene: I was cancelling my dad’s Amazon account. I spent about a half hour bouncing around on the phone, feeling a bit like I was on a world tour with all of the varied accents of the numerous international phone workers I encountered. You know, the phone bank where you can hear endless conversation in the background?
When I told this particular woman that my father had died, she became very serious and genuine with her condolences. We conducted our challenging business of communicating through noise and language barriers. Then she did it. She closed the conversation by once again expressing her condolences, then got halfway into, “You have a—“ then abruptly cut herself off, paused, and said, “Take care of yourself.”
This has never happened before. She is my new favorite international (including within the US) random stranger on the phone. Probably always will be.
In the weeks and months following Pat’s stroke, I had to make countless calls on really painful and life-altering subjects. Often I cried. The individuals for the most part were genuinely kind. For example, for the first year I had the direct number to a representative at Blue Cross Blue Shield who kept my account number on a sticky note so I didn’t have to look it up. I called that often.
Consistently, people performed well, then would drop the ball at the very last moment when they chirped,
“You have a GREAT day!!!”
I’ll admit that I occasionally indulged myself with a, “How could I NOT??!!” Or perhaps something that included a bit more colorful language. Just a few times, though.
…all this to remind myself to be mindful of the experiences of others. To push myself to be present in conversation—even with strangers. Since you never really know what someone is going through at just that moment.
So: You take care.