An empathy essay

That time at the Apple Store. I walked into the Apple Store jittery (too much caffeine), anxious (in a strange place feeling lost afraid I would be late), unsure (what is going to happen next?). It was humid; I was sweaty. Discomfort seemed to be brimming from all corners of my body. 

And then I met this woman, who walked me through my broken phone dilemma. I walked into this hotspot of technology expecting to be treated less than, expecting to be shamed for my inability to treat my little nugget of genius treasure with due respect. Expecting to be scammed in some way. 
I handed my shattered iPhone over to the woman. She was taller than me, broader than me, her dark hair pulled back in a greasy ponytail matching my own greasy bun. Her brown glasses framed dark eyes, her navy Apple work jersey flattered her pale skin. She reached for my phone and deftly pulled off the otter case I regularly struggle with. 

She turned the phone over, examining the backside where the dent showed through. 

“Wow, are you okay?” She looked up at me with her spectacled dark eyes. 
I hesitated. I laughed. I thought about all the events of the past week that had led up to my sitting there in front of her. 

With a phone like that, who would be okay?

With that kind of damage, anything could happen. 

I took a deep breath. 

“Yes.”

The woman showed my phone to another Apple employee: “definitely medal winning.” The man sitting next to me looked at me aghast, “did that take a bullet for you?”
What have I been doing? I thought. 

The woman looked at me with her eyes, then proceeded to diagnose my phone. She stood quietly by while I thought through my options. She apologized for the extent of the damage, and my likely state of mind. 

“Oh, no,” I said, “it’s my fault.”

It’s my responsibility to take care of my things and myself. To repair the splintered surfaces, to justify the damage, to decide what to do after. 

The woman was patient and kind to me. 

Me, the careless, clumsy iPhone owner. The girl without explanation. 
She shook my hand after, “I’m here until 6 if you need anything.” 

I smiled at her. “Okay, thanks.”
I left feeling better. I left feeling strangely consoled. I left looking down at my shiny new iPhone wondering why such a piece of hardware means so much to us. Wondering what it really attaches us to. Wondering why we make the choices that we do and why we let the good things break. Why we take them for granted when they’re perfect. Wondering why we let the bad things happen. Wondering why I don’t stop more and ask, “are you okay?” 

The woman at the Apple Store in Skokie, IL, thank you for everything. 

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