Service Economy Blues? Try Enjoying People

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Dublin.   The two young men who served us this morning had to get what my wife and I wanted to us, very quickly, because there was a little bit of a line.  Not much, compared to an airport, but they don't get to sit down much today, I reckon.

They are typical of the people who have served us - bus drivers, waiters, shopkeeps, etc.  And my wife and kids are talking about how wonderfully kind people are here in Ireland.  It's true.

It was also true in Lima Peru earlier this year, though the language was a barrier for us.  And it made me think again of one of the three books I read this summer, at the beach.  Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, in which an alter-ego of the Gotama Buddha finds his zen as a small person ferryboat steer.

When I like myself, occasionally, it's when I'm enjoying and liking other people.  If one manages to achieve that, life goes by nicely.   On the other hand, the consumption path of the human species really is headed for a precipice, and being popular with other humans can't be the sole measure of my life.   When I want to actually accomplish things and make a difference, I'm forced to try changing human behavior which doesn't want to be changed.

The service sector requires us to recycle our soul with each client encounter.

Environmentalists will have to do it with service.  We will have to make recycling very easy for people, and we will have to be nice to the people doing it.  And that's my goal.  I'm just in this weird little eddy current where the billions of people who are servicing other people nicely, through hand disassembly and repair and reuse, are the focus of a rather misguided planned obsolescence attack, oddly run by none other than a fellow environmentalist.  His stubbornness must be known very, very broadly.  I can't seem to make a dent.

Hurry up and find your nirvana before you die, that is the message of self-absorbed spiritual materialism. The service sector is a better zen path.  For me, it always comes down to denting the speed at which humanities slow, smiling, lazy comet is crashing into the earth.  Science, math, and business show that recycling by poor people is a uniquely efficient and environmentally holy karma.   The smiles on the faces of the recycling employees in Africa, South America, and Asia are a lot like the smiles of a bus driver in Dublin.   He's got to be tired of doing the same routine, saying the same thing in a circle, hour after hour, day after day.  But he's managed to be nice and to be helpful to my bumbling American family.  Sure, his bus emits fumes.  But being angry at buses is stupid, because the fumes per rider are so much less than a Prius.   That's a connection to recycling.  It's not perfect, but it's so much better, and it gives me a certain amount of comfort and faith that the "free market' we've been told to fear is beating poverty and rain forest and coral reef mining with simple reuse, repair and recycling.

But frustration with a customer should not affect the next customer or client.  Mother Theresa may be next in line after you wait on Adolph Hitler.   Providing service is therefore a spiritual task, you must be able to quickly forget the residue of human societal interaction and enjoy the smiles.  I wish I wasn't writing this inside a coffee shop, I'd like to put up some great photos of smiles to fit the service economy mantra for Dublin today.

Now off to Glasnevin Cemetery.  I hear they have solved the problem of human consumption there, but it seems to involve some form of landfill.  

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