“Melissa, I’ll be right with you,” said the service agent as he finished with the customer in front of me. Oil, gas and tires mingled into toxic incense that smelled like work. The clang of tools and hoists and forced air filled my ears. And then it struck me. He knew my name.
I had spent the morning trying to submit bills to my insurance company for reimbursement. Their diligence to protect my identity left me feeling like I was nothing more than a username and account number. After multiple attempts to log in I called the help number and was connected with someone I had trouble understanding. Irked by the digital world and embarrassed by my parochial hearing, I was more abrupt than necessary with the person on the other end of the line. I hung up wearing the scratchy garment of righteous indignation to cover my guilt at misdirected irritation.
I had spent the work week wading through the mud of bureaucracy. Writing reports that no one would read, filling out forms that asked the wrong questions, and sitting through meetings with little purpose had all drained my soul. Attempts to connect meaningfully with friends had been thwarted by their busy schedules. And now I was spending a chunk of my one day off a week getting my car fixed.
And then Reggie called me by name. He had been my service agent for my last oil change and I recognized him by where and how he sat. Instead of standing like his coworkers at his counter high desk, he sat on a low office chair. The bottom of the computer screen was level with his eyes. He hunted and pecked for keys, his arms as high as his ears. He listened without interrupting while explained my questions and concerns. Not only had I been recognized, I had been heard.
When Reggie called a few times during the day to give me updates, he called me, Mel, a nickname I hadn’t heard since Julie and Vickie called me Mel when we met in Spain. He was as happy to tell me the good news – I wouldn’t need a new clutch – as I was to hear it. When I came to pick up my car, he walked me to the cashier and asked, “What’s it like to be a pastor.” He had remembered my work from a previous exchange. I had been seen, heard and now I was just a little bit known.
I started felt like a person. An honest to God person. Not a number or a username or an account. I wasn’t a means to an end, a bother to be managed, or an item to be checked off someone’s list. In being seen, heard and known, I was able to shed my irritable self. I asked about his weekend and thanked him for all his help. Reggie became more than the guy at the service desk, but someone who spent his weekend cleaning his condo, connecting with friends and maybe grilling a steak if the weather stayed nice.