As posted handwritten signs and disclaimers on order forms have made abundantly clear, businesses across the service spectrum are suffering from a lack of staff. Whether this means waiting an extra 30 minutes for your meal at a restaurant or an extra 30 days for your UPS package, the shrunken workforce is having a very real impact on our lives. (Then again, as Jews, we’re used to waiting. The Messiah herself clearly is in no hurry.)
Hopefully this temporal waiting is, well, temporary. Unemployment benefits can’t be that much higher than wages, can they? And, if so, people are earning far too little. Might the answer to no-shows be more complicated than that?
My real concern is that we are losing our moorings. Last week, I pulled into a local gas station and waited. And waited. And waited. No one came, although an attendant was clearly sitting inside, looking my way. I walked in and pointed to my car. He nodded, then pointed to the sandwich he was eating. I nodded too, went back to my car, and drove away. Why was he even there? Evidently, not to work.
I rode on fumes until I reached my destination — a sparsely populated, flag-waving little town on the New Jersey — Pennsylvania border. The attendant not only smiled but filled my tank and washed my windows. He even gave me directions.
Having already decided from front yard signage that residents of the town leaned right in their voting preferences, I was now forced to consider that at least some of these people were actually nice. And the local diner owner went out of his way to ensure that no dairy would reach the plate of my lactose-averse grandson.
Well, I rationalized, maybe they didn’t realize that I was a New York Jewish liberal. Maybe if they had known we disagreed on, well, everything, they would have shorted the gas, or placed yogurt on our table.
Then again, maybe not.
At the last little eatery I visited, in the generally liberal northeast, I was food-shamed for requesting a bagel. “WE don’t serve bagels,” said the outraged tattooed sales assistant at the cash register. I skulked out feeling like I had requested something pornographic. Weren’t people supposed to be more tolerant in Maine?
When you think about it, Jews should know better than to stereotype others. After all, we have been the ongoing victims of persecution precisely because of our perceived characteristics and qualities. My grandson keeps “canceling” me. I know he’s joking, but what’s not funny is that he’s pointing out a lot of my preconceived judgments. While we both agree that cancel culture is not particularly healthy, we also both understand what it was originally meant to accomplish.
And yet. There are some prejudices I can’t shake. Refusing to wear a mask in a crowded venue, even when it is required? Cancel. Ignoring the science and spurning a vaccination? Cancel. Deliberate rudeness? (Are you listening, uncivilized gas station attendant?) Cancel.
Truly what I’d like to cancel is the angst seeping through our nation like a toxic fog. We don’t trust our leaders, we fear for our environment, we’re uncertain about our futures. Will the economy truly rebound? Will a new covid variant makes its debut? Will we need a booster shot? It’s hard to enjoy the scorching summer heat when we know it’s only a foretaste of things to come.
Anyway, summer’s almost over. Hopefully, the leaves will change color, schools will reopen, and all will be right with the world.
If not, cancel.