Too Much Flow

by Wells

The cashier at Subway today was clearly “in the zone”. Whenever I go there on my lunch break the place is packed, and today was no exception. I have boatloads of respect for people who excel in high-pressure retail workplaces. This man has developed the very particular skill of being-the-cashier-at-Subway to such a degree that he can ring up probably 8 or 10 customers per minute, if the customers can keep up with him.

And therein lies the problem. At some point in joblike interactions it is possible to become so awesome at the job that the only obstacle that could possibly slow you down is dependency on another human being. And if you’re someone who gets addicted to Flow, you will start to see coworkers, customers, or clients as just that: obstacles.

This points to a situation larger than one man’s oblivious rudeness. My being rushed on the sandwich line is in fact an indication that Subway-Cashier is One of Those Jobs A Robot Could Do. I use that phrase because in theory it should be inaccurate. Of course a thinking person is better prepared to improvise and adjust to the subtle pressures of retail service. But the volume of work, the stigma of the position and, yes, the stupid hat that kid has to wear let him know that being nice and making eye contact with every customer is below company expectations.

What I’m trying to say is maybe the Subway by my office needs a few more cash registers.