Holbrook: Let us wake up, let us see what we can learn (column)
December 4, 2016
I am still trying to find some measure of peace following the election. That so many people could vote for a candidate whose message and tactics were based on bullying and blame, inciting aggression towards others, and disregarding basic standards of ethical behavior, is incomprehensible and profoundly alienating to me.
How do I reconcile the reality of the campaign and election with my own belief that, in a way that is bigger than we can perceive individually, we are all One? That everything that is expressed by any of us is an expression of who we are. All of us.
Is this who we are?
Recently I took a sales position at a local cookware shop in Silverthorne. On a normal day, it is a pure pleasure to work here. Most people who walk through the doors are interested in food and cooking, and entranced by the brightly colored pots and pans.
In the days leading up to Black Friday, customers began stopping by the store to identify what they were going to purchase when the doors opened at 8 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. During a small window — between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. — a 40 percent sale would be offered before changing to 35 percent off for the rest of the weekend.
Ten times as many customers as we normally see in a day were expected in the first two hours of Black Friday.
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That Friday, my boss and I arrived at 7:30 a.m. to open the store. By 7:45 a.m. customers were waiting outside; at 8 a.m. on the dot we unlocked the doors and got out of the way.
The next hour and 45 minutes were a happy free-for-all. French Ovens and fry pans were hauled up to the counter, wrapped in paper and sent on their way with their satisfied new owners. The cash register was programed from company headquarters to subtract the appropriate discount from each item — so ringing things up was a snap.
At a quarter to ten, I walked through the store, announcing that in 15 minutes the early bird special would be over; discounts would go from 40 percent to 35 percent. Customers should make their way to the register now.
The customers happily ignored me and kept on shopping.
At 10:03 a.m., with four customers still to be rung up, the discounts applied by the cash register dropped from 40 percent to 35 percent.
"I just came all the way from Eagle!" shouted the first customer in line, with a big stack of cookware in front of him. He demanded the 40 percent discount.
My boss was at the register. "I'm sorry, it's after 10 a.m. and the discount is now 35 percent." Loud verbal attacks ensued, by this customer as well others in line. "Just change the discount on the cash register!" they demanded, "You should be ashamed! This is so wrong! It was not clear that we were going to lose out!"
My boss finished ringing up the customer (who despite his outrage was apparently still pretty happy with 35 percent off) and disappeared into the storeroom. I was left with the remaining angry group.
"I'm really sorry for your disappointment," I said, in my best calming voice. The next customer also decided to take the 35 percent discount but, like the rest of the group, she was furious. "Damn corporations! They pretend to give you something, then they take it away! This country stinks."
Things eventually settled down. When my boss returned from the storeroom I wondered if she had been crying. Everything that this election has revealed to me about people seemed confirmed by these interactions. These customers ignored their own responsibility and then looked for someone else to blame. Equally disturbing, they seemed incapable of recognizing the positive — great products at a 35 percent discount — and were totally focused on the 5 percent they had lost. Finally, their disappointment justified attacking my boss personally, almost as if she were just some abstract "member of the corporation" and not a young woman stuck in a difficult situation.
At the day's end, just as we were about to close, one of the customers I had rung up earlier returned. "Now what?" I thought, assuming the worst.
"I thought you'd overcharged me," she admitted. "But looking over my receipt I discovered you hadn't charged me for one of the pans I bought. I'm here to pay what I owe."
I was incredulous. "Wow, thank you. Most people wouldn't have come back to the store. And we might not have ever known."
"Yes," she agreed, "but I would have known. And it wouldn't have felt right."
In the aftermath of the election, consumed with anger, I called a teacher of mine for guidance. Ray Crist is a healer, and I have spent time with him in Peru learning from the traditional shamans of the Sacred Valley. Ray said to me:
"The essence is that this is the game of the species, and it continues because we have not evolved out of it. The love that Christ taught, we are not good at this at all. The planet is in fight-or-flight mode, and people are on the defensive. They want a bully in power. They want someone they feel is going to protect them.
"Our job is to make a statement with peace, to keep love and affection vibrating, and not to get pulled into war. Spirituality is about trying to heal, to lift the awareness of humanity to a higher level. We meditate, we stay in the center of love and empathy. We do not let ourselves be triggered. We observe. This is democracy, this is what happens. We may be seeing an America that is awakening to something. It may be that people are beginning to see a bigger picture.
"There is nothing to dread. Let us wake up. Let us see what we can learn from this."
Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge.
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