Who Suffers from D-G.A.S. Syndrome? (We all do)
“Well, apparently, we’re both suffering from a deplorable lack of curiosity,” was one of the best lines by Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) in the musical epic, The Sound of Music. It was an admission of lack of emotional or intellectual engagement that is completely applicable to what happened the other night at the Big Box grocery store where I shop.
Sometimes life just happens in front of me and I am stunned. In this case, I deliberately put myself in the check-out line behind the Amish family. I was observing them and asking the question in my head of whether the Amish I read about in the lovely fictitious novels (which have become my steady diet) are the same ones I see around town. I wonder if the Amish are as thoughtful and religious as the books portray them to be. I also wonder if they use deodorant, designer shampoo, and other pleasantries that we all get used to in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. I wonder if they wear wedding rings. I wonder if the mother made the little boy’s shirt herself, or if someone else in their community did… and where they get that shade of mint green fabric. I wonder if the wife is from a different location of Amish communities than the husband … and why his features looked more Germanic than hers did. She almost had olive skin. Clearly, there are lots of questions crashing around in my head.
I was surprised to see so much “Englischer” food on their part of the conveyor belt: cereals, snacks, and the like. For once in my life, MY selection of food looked almost healthy! I know I didn’t expect fruits and vegetables amongst their groceries because they most likely grown their own. But the amount of almost junk food was startling. I thought about my own garden that was almost a 100% flop this year. If I had to grow my own food, I’d starve for sure and for certain. I didn’t get the corn in early enough and I think it will be mature, oh, in October shortly before the first frost. My strawberry plants got moved up to the deck and STILL something with small teeth chomped the berries right off the plants! I think they left exactly TWO berries for me. “A fine howdy-do,” from the chipmunks I’m sure. The bean plants produced exactly three beans and I found them when they were shriveled nearly beyond recognition. At the time, I pondered declaring the year a “seed-making year” and putting them in a baggie somewhere for next spring. Instead, I lost my motivation and tossed them on the compost heap. Yet again my chive crop was crazy and has conquered the entire raised bed. Ask me how many times I’ve cooked with chives in the past six years. I actually bought cottage cheese at one point, so to have something to fold the chives into. Did you know cottage cheese turns pink when it starts going south? I’ve got a renegade population of mint plants – and a friend at work that keeps telling me how I can “make tea” with them. I roll my eyes – like I’ve got any time to fool around with making teas. I’m too busy tearing up the mint plants that are threading root runners everywhere and being a general nuisance.
Amidst my reverie, the dear Amish woman wrote a check to the store. And the cashier who was so neutral in her interchange with her customers that I wanted to lean over, grab her wrist, and check her pulse, took the paper check without ceremony, and attempted to feed it into the cash register. In my brain I thought: Of course she would pay cash or check, if she had a debit or credit card the Amish lady would be participating in an electronic process which is verboden. (forbidden). The cashier stood back from the machine and the belt and assumed the position pictured in the dictionary next to the phrase “Irritated Cashier,” as she announced, “we might have to check ID because it’s not taking It.” I watched the Amish woman not flinch. I watched the husband strain his eyes a bit wider at the mountain of groceries and products in the cart. “Was the cool whip melting,” I thought, “and does cool whip ever truly spoil because it is so artificial? Or does it all just morph into that crispy yellow form?”
The tiny lad in his Amish green shirt and adorable smoke grey pants and suspenders did not make a peep. He seemed totally at home with his little dark, brimmed hat resting on his golden hair. His bangs rested just a smidge beyond his eyebrows giving his face a demeanor of shyness. He seemed to hover around his father and the edge of the grocery cart like the hummingbird does near my front porch feeder – lightly and quietly. Will he always remain this secure amidst the two pillars in his life – Maam and Dat – and expand their curious community among us? They did not have to warn, throttle, chide, plead, threaten or glare at him the way 85% of parents do at this point in the checkout process. Did I accidentally cross paths with the Two Most Successful or Perfect Parents on the planet?
Suddenly, even though they seemed to be awaiting a manager, the cashier turned back to the machine and pressed a button or two and muttered something about not supposed to do this herself. The machine chug-chug-chugged the check through its teeth. She looked in her dis-interested way at the woman and said, “Need you to sign.” The woman signed the surface of the check screen with the inkless pen. Did that count as participating with electronics? The accepted, tendered, and cancelled check was handed back to the customer. It struck me as an ironic gesture. Ie. 1) Customer gives check. 2) Customer faced with check not being accepted. 3) Customer must sign screen. 4) Check accepted. 5) Customer gets check back, which is magically worth money no longer. Off they went with their groceries. I hope they don’t find this cashier was representative of the Englisch culture.
When they were beyond ear shot, I asked the cashier a question although I already suspected the answer: Do the cashiers at this store get trained on how to work with the Amish and their special requirements? “No.” <insert her blank stare here.> I continued: “You know for you to ask for ID is going to be pointless because they don’t have their pictures taken.” She said, “nah, I don’t know about that.”
I replied: “I do. That’s WHY I’m telling you.” She said, “well, then how’d she get checks?” Here’s my surprise answer: “They walk into the bank.” She said, “Well, I hardly ever write checks anyways.” (I checked back the response in my sarcastic gut: I’m sorry, did this conversation just turn to be about you, because that wasn’t where I was fixing to steer it… you typical 20-something.). I wanted to offer her some more information – but clearly her D-GAS Syndrome was kicking in.
You wonder what D-GAS Syndrome is. (Mom, stop reading here.) It stands for Don’t Give A Shit. This has over and again characterized “some” members of the 20-30 year old population as of late, and it is getting to be a bit old. In fact it is downright maddening to me. They are very poor at customer service (see my previous stories about finding a hair stylist), because for the time when they are required to be about the business of work IT AINT ALL ABOUT THEM. And that takes them completely out of their comfort zone. It does not make a cheerful or helpful worker. It does not make them pleasant human beings to interface with. It is a drain on the soul of the planet and all its inhabitants. (well, perhaps I dragged their influence too far.) But I will tell you, when I find helpful cashiers and attentive waiters I just feel like HUGGING them because they MAKE a difference. I particularly love the two tech guys that have helped me with my cell phone problems lately.
That cashier probably doesn’t realize that with all those groceries, the couple isn’t going to jump in their own buggy and drive away: they most likely hired an Englischer driver to bring them to the store in a vehicle because the buggies tend to stay off the streets toward the evening (BECAUSE our drivers are so self-absorbed, we tend to hit them, speed around them, or cause accidents.) Also, when they go to their own home, they won’t be flipping on a light switch – they will be lighting a gas lamp. If the air is chilly, they will be lighting a kerosene heater or wood stove. There are a lot of things we take for granted that make it easy to shop for groceries any time of day or night, whenever we want.
For the Amish, living independently of the electrical grid and certain luxuries of modern American society, makes daily life take more time and effort. That may seem like a waste of time to the D-GAS generation as they click away on their cell phones and tablets and ipads, etc. For all the communication tools that the D-GAS kids have, they are getting a lot less true, heartfelt, and community-building communicating accomplished. They are often self-absorbed and lonely at the same time. I wish we could declare a social media time-out day, or even week, to try to save them.
We don’t have to become Amish to realize the Amish have something figured out that we more regularly struggle with: building stable, loving human community. Maybe if we pay more attention in the grocery store to the person in front of us, we learn more than we expected we would. I-GAS. Do you?