I met my wife for lunch today and we both noticed how lackadaisical the service was. It was a typical large national chain with ok food and ok prices and usually somewhat ok service. Today the server was rather scatter-brained and just seemed distracted or possibly not up to the task of serving customers during a busy work week lunch hour. Regardless. the apathy of most, if not all, employees in this place was what struck me the most.
I’m not writing this to denigrate the perfectly nice older woman who served us today. Quite the contrary, I actually feel sorry for her because I know what it’s like to work at something that’s not inspiring. It’s hard not to give the impression that you just don’t care.
Normally, people are pretty good at feigning interest, whether it’s towards a job, a movie, or a conversation. There’s probably a huge amount of fake enthusiasm going on right at this moment. Think of all the bright smiles, nodding heads, and forced laughs in job interviews. Awful, isn’t it?
A quick test of whether you’re faking it is to ask yourself if your outward body language and facial expression match your inner dialogue. If not, then, guess what? You’re faking it!
This is not to say that all fakery in life is bad. Much of what goes on is necessary for a society to function without all of us tearing each other’s throats out. Victorian politeness rose out of just such a necessity.
No, the most awful thing about all of this is the feeling behind the fake smiles. Really, it’s the lack of feeling other than, perhaps, disgust and rejection. Why do so many people go through life like this?
Is it a reaction to the horrors of modern life? This sounds funny on the surface, but think about the real lack of challenge in our daily lives in the Western world. It’s perfectly normal to coast through life without being under any realistic threat of missing a meal or Human beings evolved to react immediately to stimuli in their environment. Modern life dictates that we suppress these reactions or delay them to an appropriate time.
Maybe we are so used to suppressing our real feelings about things that we really don’t feel them any more. We don’t allow ourselves to notice that we feel things so that we can get through the day, the terrible, relentless boredom of much of daily life. Apathy is just our defense mechanism against this horror.