The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jewel Resort: People Watching

Much of my time in Runaway Bay was spent people watching (creepy as that may sound).  It’s one of those things I find myself incapable of not doing.  Whatever situation I am in, if I am doing nothing else you can bet I’m looking at the faces of those around me; you can infer a lot about people jut by watching them closely. In this particular instance, I found myself watching the workers at our resort, how they interacted with each other, how they interacted with the guests at the resort, how they went about their work.  The difference, I noticed, was in their interactions with their coworkers and with the guests.  With their coworkers they were genial, jocular.  And why not?  These were people that worked together, day in and day out.  Some of them might have  been neighbors, friends.  With the guests it was different.  Anyone who has had the displeasure of working in the service industry will probably see  a bit f themselves in the following description.  The workers, with a few exceptions, were distant, not cold necessarily, but impersonal.  This  last word I think is key; impersonal, acting in a way that does not hint at their personhood, their humanity.  The guests for their part reciprocated, acting genially with each other,but impersonal towards the workers.

I wondered about this.  Why were these two groups of people who share the same world and the same beating heart so content to ignore one another?  Was this behavior peculiar to this one tropical resort?  This city?  This country?  I find myself tending to answer no to all of the above, although the behavior was likely exacerbated in this case by issues of race, class, and national identity.  The fact is, in the context of the global economy, we all act this way to one another.  When I visit a restaurant, I am served my food by a waiter, not a person who happens to be waitering.  I do not think the difference is trivial.  The person, for as long as our interaction is sustained, casts aside their humanity.  In turn I cast aside mine.  We each assume our respective mantle, waiter and customer.  We treat each other not as people but as economic machines each extracting value from one another.  Once the extraction is complete we part ways, likely never to think about one another again, likely never to ponder humanity of the person from whom we extracted value.  It is painful to have one’ humanity removed, even if it doesn’t seem it.  And it is likely not without consequence.

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