SaltWire's Ask a Journalist: You have questions, let's find some ...
What you need to know about COVID-19: June 3
The latest on Nova Scotia's mass shooting
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
The latest weather columns and browse beautiful photos from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
I started working when I was roughly 11 in the underground babysitting market. Most "clients" were relatives or neighbours. I babysat a lot - $3 an hour was the going rate (and for that money, I had to look after a lot of kids). I would also make meals, do dishes, and clean.
When I was old enough, babysitting morphed into a job at a shop in town, where I worked the floor and gift-wrapped my heart out. I worked every Thursday and Friday evening and every Saturday from Grade 9 until I left for a summer in Calgary after my first year of university.
In Calgary - after working the classified section hard - I got a job doing landscaping. That was hard work, and my work partner was super weird. She loved wolves, had a conspiracy theory about everything and reused Kleenex after she let it dry out for a day.
I made my way back home for school (about 20 pounds lighter and with an incredible farmer’s tan). I got a job at Shoppers Drug Mart, where I worked for much of my time at university. I was also a bartender at the university pub, wrote ads at the local radio station and sold ads for the yearbook. Oh, and I went to university!
After graduation at 22, I boldly moved to Toronto to live with my cousin, who had moved the year before me. I had one suitcase, my tax return and some graduation money (I had to find a job before it ran out). I found a great job and was the youngest person on my team (by many years). My upbringing and previous jobs had prepared me – I knew how to carry myself and interact with others.
At each of my jobs, even at a very young age, I knew I had to be responsible, professional and offer customer service. When I went to work, I was there to work. Of course, there were days I was desperately hungover, called in sick when I wasn't, and friends called my places of work to talk when I should have been doing my tasks.
I like to think of myself as a modern woman. I'm always open to growth, evolving, and I love learning from people who are younger than me about new ways of doing things, especially when it comes to technology.
Technology also brings out the solid dose of 'old-fashionedness' I have in me. I've noticed with the infiltration of technology there’s been a severe decline in customer service, human connection and consideration for those around you.
Just before COVID-19 closed everything, I was in Toronto for work. One evening, I went to The Eaton Centre. Nordstrom's was having its annual anniversary sale, so I ducked in to take a look. An expensive brand of make up I had read a lot about but hadn't yet tried was included in the sale. I was looking at the products as the shop girl sat leaning on the counter staring deeply at her phone. I wanted to try a product, but testers weren’t on display. Since she was still in her iPhone trance, I had to ask her if she could help me. She said, “yeah,” then answered her phone as it rang at that moment. She applied the $60 highlighter on me as she chatted on her phone. When she was done, I asked for a mirror so I could see what it looked like. She opened a drawer, took a mirror out, passed it to me and then walked away, still talking on her phone. I walked away too - without buying anything.
After that, I walked to a restaurant I had read about - it was self-serve, yet the prices were equivalent to fine dining. I brought my tray to a gal (who was on her phone) at the checkout. She punched in my items without any conversation. I was prompted to tip a suggested 20 per cent.
After returning my tray, I took a taxi back to my hotel. The driver was on his phone (on speaker) the entire drive. As I was paying (and prompted to tip), he opened his door and did a snot rocket onto the ground. Oh, God, I just gagged remembering it.
When my meetings were done, I made my way to the airport on the UP train. One thing that was UP on the train was the absurdly rude behaviour of the gal beside me. She had really long, fluorescent green nails (which she was tapping on her screen at an astonishingly fast rate), while at the same time having a conversation on her phone. She repeatedly (and loudly) said, "ARE YOU going to take me to get my nails done? ARE YOU going to take me to get my nails done?” while pulling a McDonald's straw in and out of the cup she was holding. The straw made a sound something like 'reeeeekkk - reeeekkk' over and over. When her stop came, she didn't say “excuse me,” she just stood up and kept saying, “ARE YOU going to take me to get my nails done?”
Upon arriving at the airport, myself and other train occupants (not green nails, thankfully) took an elevator to the correct level. We all jammed in - there was barely room to move your arms. The gal beside me (who had on an airline uniform) suddenly broke into a verbal assault: “Do you think I am stupid? You didn't answer when I called, but I know you saw I called! You are such a liar.” She had Airpods (wireless earphones) in her ears, which were connected to her phone, so you couldn't really see them. An older man in the elevator thought she was talking to him. Her rant continued as we all walked down a long hallway to the terminal. She made her way to a customer service desk for the airline she worked for.
Before arriving at the airport, I had checked myself in on my phone. Upon arriving, I printed my baggage tag at a kiosk and brought my luggage to the drop off (where I scanned and placed it on a belt myself). Literally not one person looked at me or said anything to me as I made my way through the various touch points.
When I arrived in Halifax, I took a taxi home (around $65). The driver was on his phone the entire drive. When he passed back the machine, I was again prompted for a tip - suggested at 15 per cent – and out of social awkwardness, I did it. To boot, he did not even get out to help me with my luggage, just popped the trunk.
During this time of trails and tribulations for businesses, technology has been an enormous help. Online ordering, Zoom meetings, online banking, Instagram and Facebook to help spread information, new ways of doing things.
One area where I hope things will go back to 'the way they used to be' is the requirement for people to put their phones away when they're at work and not focus on "I", but rather you, the customer.
Oh, and taking selfies in public places - I hope that stops, too.
With an insatiable love for human behaviour and circumstance, Emilie Chiasson absorbs the world around her, and turns her experiences into relatable stories. From her home town of Antigonish, N.S., to her travels around the world, she never fails to connect with the characters and perspectives that make life a bit more colourful. Read more.