By in Personal

What may seem to be a minute in their lives, is a lifetime in ours.

You would never guess that working at a beer distributor would really open your eyes to the world around you. I live in a city where the two main demographics are Hispanics and African American; plenty of which drive through to grab some beer on weekends. For being in the same place for 23 years, I never really worked inside the city. All my jobs were out of town. Who can go about their life not knowing what their hometown is really like? So I decided to take the job for two reasons. 1: to earn more money through college. 2: to perform a social experiment to see how my city is like from an adult standpoint. I already had the customer service and cashiering abilities. Now it is time to put them to the test in an unfamiliar environment.

I was immediately enveloped in a cultural and situational overload. I greeted native Spanish speakers as best I could. I small talked with senior citizens. I sympathized those falling on harsh times. I showed a friendly side to the alcoholics that came in multiple times a week. I criticized those that were driving with an open beer can. I've seen a quarrel from a small fender bender right in the store. A drug bust within the immediate vicinity. A doped up inpatient scrambling around the store. It was weird at first, almost condescendingly pleasing. 'Here I am, a college student that has social ties and networks far away from this place, doing them a favor by ringing out and grabbing their beer for them...all for $10 bucks an hour'. Talking with my coworkers would reveal some more insight. They could point out customers by their car or just their persona:

"Hey! Here's the guy who wrote the beverage song."

"I have never seen that person without the green beret on."

"There is a guy who says 'Debbie, debbie' when he gives you his card." (debit).

I would wonder 'How do they know these people?' (Trust me though. We have a blast cramped in a small office chatting about random topics and watching videos.)

Yet as the months pass by, and my experiences grow, I begin to remember some customers and I am quick to engage in socializing with them. I no longer judge by race or appearance alone. Some people are genuinely happy that I give them something to look forward to later . I connect with my workforce as well; mostly guys in my age group but with different economic and racial/social backgrounds. In a sense, this job gives me a break from my academic work so I can learn street smarts and the ability to operate among different types of people. I feel as if working here has been an important part of my personal and professional development.

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BarbRad wrote on November 26, 2014, 2:34 AM

I think half the problem we have with race relations in this country is that we can't get to know each other in a meaningful way. We were active in a small almost inner city church in a residential neighborhood in the Crenshaw are of Los Angeles from 1967 to 1976, when we had to move because my husband changed jobs. There were only about seven of us active members who had white faces. The leadership was Asian as were most adult members. The Sunday school and youths groups were half black and half Asian. There were no white children. After the first couple of months working together all the time the racial differences are no more thought about than eye and hair color. You just see each other as personalities and become part of each other's lives.

MegL wrote on November 26, 2014, 3:12 AM

Really interesting way to look at a job. This experience will stand you in great stead later in life!