Tootling around in one of Bispham Van Hire’s fine transits today, popped into KFC for something to eat. I find ordering in places like that quite daunting, particularly when they ask questions, and you are not sure what they mean. Most fast food places seem to expect their workers to speak from the script, so it’s not because they don’t speak accurately – it’s because I’m not familiar with their script.
The most memorable case was in America. In a McDonald’s, which they seemed to be in the process of rebuilding but was still open, having ordered coffee, we were asked if we wanted ‘space’ – or that’s what it sounded like. We asked again. ‘Do you want space?’ Mmm. We had heard right, but were no wiser. We didn’t know whether to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ which of course were the options the lady was expecting. In the end we had to go off-script and say ‘Look, we’ve no idea what ‘space’ means.’ ‘Space for milk,’ as if we children, she said!
I once, because the options of ordering by self-service machine was available, did that to avoid the cross-questioning!
Whenever we learn something, a ‘script’ is vital. It’s how we learn language. We babble, copy, then eventually make our own stuff up from the toolkit we acquire. Always amusing at first!
However, it is de-humanising when people who serve us are expected to only stick to the script. Once they know the job, they can, and should, simply communicate with each individual individually. It’s de-humanising for the customers, too. We are somehow expected to conform to someone’s efficient idea of how food should be ordered.
Ordering food at a machine, when they are people waiting to serve you, is a bad cop out, I must admit.
Where am I heading with this story?
Well, it struck me that when people attend worship, it can be very off-putting to attend if you think there is a ‘script’ that they need to know. It means you’ve got to be determined to come. Some people attend on-line instead, or simply say they worship at home.
These type of people need bringing by someone who knows them, can reassure them, explain what phrases like ‘space’ might mean, and generally behave in a way they think of as ‘normal’ so they feel accepted. (It’s great when Verlaine goes out to share a cigarette with the guys, for example!)
Probably also needs saying that we need to be careful not to hide behind a script, or to cling on to one. Scripts need to be embodied. In life as much as drama.
Exactly what Paul was thinking of when he described people as living epistles. Literally lives that God is read in.
The best kind of service is person-to-person, frailty accepting/affirming, but server doing job well, customer having needs met.
That happens to be a good description of prayer too.