Dear non-service industry workers, just a quick note to remind you that those in the service industry are in fact human just like you (unless they are Briggo), and as such, you should treat them in a manner that you would deem appropriate for how you would like to be interacted with. Or to put it another way, when you are ordering coffee at a cafe, get off your fucking phone.
This doesn’t mean simply prying that thin rectangle away from your ear, but—in most cases, more on that momentarily—removing any and all new-fangled means of interacting with it. And as The Takeout avers, this includes AirPods.
As part of their advice column The Salty Waitress, The Takeout recently fielded a question on this very topic from a person named Kevin:
Dear Salty, I was at the coffee shop counter, and the cashier wouldn’t take my order until I took off my AirPod! And it was only in one ear! Am I the asshole here?
Short answer: Potentially, but, dear Kevin, you may not be the only one.
First, let’s all agree that talking on your phone or listening to music or being otherwise distracted by your handheld device while ordering is a complete no-go. It is discourteous to both the person taking your order as well as the rest of the folks in line who have to suffer the slowdown because you can’t un-mindmeld for two seconds. It’s unlikely whatever you are doing is actually urgent, so just ask the person on the other end to hold while you interact with another human in a respectful and normal way. But, if that call actually is that important, then don’t get in line until it is done. Or just step out of line if the call is not complete by the time you get to the front. Maybe that’s a minor inconvenience for you, but this is your issue, don’t foist the inconvenience on those around you; it’s your burden to bear.
Still with me thus far? Great.
Now, onto the AirPods. If you’re not listening to anything, then why is there a need to take them out? They have no effect on your ability to interact, right? Wrong! The real question is: if you’re not listening to anything, why is there a need to keep them in?
Ah, but here is where the wickets get sticky and where The Salty Waitress errs. While it is 100% true that all able-bodied individuals should remove their AirPods before ordering (keeping them in their hand and not placing them on the counter like a waxy monster), many folks with a hearing impairment use AirPods and the like as a discrete, lower cost alternative to other hearing aids, and a barista or any other service industry worker would be hard pressed to discern the former from the latter. And as such, asking someone to remove their AirPods—even if they are able-bodied, which again, how would you know—also makes you the asshole here.
Listen, here’s the deal: the world is going to hell in handbasket moving at the speed of light. Everyone in this world has problems big and small that they deal with on a daily basis and there is simply no reason for you, able-bodied dipshit customer and presumptuous service industry professional, to be another one of those problems for someone else when you can so easily avoid doing so.
Let's all just make an agreement right here and now, an amendment to the social contract we all have tacitly entered into. Those of us who are able to will remove any and all distractions when interacting with those taking our orders, and those taking orders will assume anyone wearing AirPods and the like at the counter have a reason to and won't question it. Any action outside of this new understanding puts the perpetrator in the risk of being the asshole here.
TL;DR it takes literally no effort for you to be kind to those you interact with on a daily basis. Doing the contrary means that, yes, you are in fact a terrible person. You are no different than the person who puts two pieces of luggage in the overhead bin—the true scum of the earth—and if I had my way, you would be shot from a cannon into space to float aimlessly until you find the actual center of the universe. I think we’d both agree it’s where you belong.
Top image © Adobe Stock/Nadia Snopek