Remember the line from Avatar, “I see you.” The Navi would say that to each other and to the animals they killed and at first I thought, Hmmm. That’s kind of dumb. But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized, it’s the problem with all of Western society. We pretend we don’t see each other.
The cashier pretends we don’t exist. The customer pretends the cashier isn’t a real live human being and stands on his side of the counter talking on his phone to someone else. When that woman cut you off with her car, it wasn’t only that she didn’t see you, it was also that she thought you didn’t merit the space you were in. Do you begin to see (sorry) how things would change if we just saw each other? The whole world would be like Trader Joe’s, except maybe without all the Hawaiian shirts.
I don’t know when we all stopped treating each other like human beings. Maybe when the world population topped six billion. Perhaps it’s like city life. We’re all smushed so close together, we avert our eyes to afford each other some privacy. But how about giving each other some common decency instead. If we all saw each other as human beings or children of God or points of light or destined to be worm food, maybe we would be a little nicer to each other, kind of like how we all treated each other in the weeks after 9/11.
The other day I bought some fresh Alaskan Cod at a local grocery chain. The next day when I opened the fridge to start dinner, something stunk. Bad. Suspecting the fish, I brought it out. It smelled fishy, but not too strong so I started washing it in the sink, which is when I gagged so hard I almost had to step outside. I quickly put it back in its packaging and wrapped it in a plastic grocery bag then wrapped it again in one of those sturdier Target bags and drove back to the store (windows open in 90 degree heat) to get my money back.
When I arrived at the service counter, there was nobody there. The store was crowded, but none of the cashiers or baggers or workers hustling around would look at me. So I stood waiting. And waiting. Five minutes. Six. Doesn’t seem too long writing it here, but it’s plenty long when you’re first in line at an empty counter holding a stinky bag of rotten fish and everyone that works in the store is pretending you don’t exist. That they don’t see you.
I put the bag down on the counter and waited some more. At around the ten-minute mark, a cashier did say someone would be right with me. But still I continued to wait. That is, until I got an idea. A wonderful, awful idea. I opened the Target bag and stepped back.
My refund followed swiftly.
All I’m saying is we should do what we teach our children: be nice to each other. And then no one would have to raise a stink about wanting to be seen.