Wednesday, 20 April 2016

You are not my servant...

I was at an Asian grocery store recently, and had a conversation with the lady at the till. I don't often get to have conversations at this particular grocery store because it is usually a hive of activity and the lines are often very long. But, this time, I was the only person waiting to pay.

The lady at the till was probably in her mid-forties.

Me: Hello. I have my own bags.
Lady (Chinese with thick Chinese accent): Hello. Can I pack for you? (holds out hand for my bags)
Me: Doesn't matter to me. You can pack. I can pack...
Lady: You are not from China. You are Canadian!
Me: *laughing* Why would you say that?
Lady: Chinese people from mainland China get angry at us if we don't pack for them. Packing is a servant's job. It is my job to pack for you. Canadian...they very use to pack on their own. I have to ask for bag.
Me, a little taken aback: Cashier-ing is considered a servant?
Lady: Yes. And if I pack for people from China, I must also pack for Canadian. Only good customer service. Treat everybody the same. Canadian or Chinese.
Me: You are not my servant.
Lady: Thank you. You have a good day.
Me: Thank you. You, too.


I am honestly not sure how I feel about that conversation. A lady older than me earning an honest living being told every day she is someone's servant just because she is a cashier.

I can't tell if I'm angry, or annoyed, or horrified, or just realizing I'm being naïve about this. Could this be a cultural response? After all, just because I am Chinese, and this lady is Chinese, it is quite clear we grew up in a very different geographical location with different cultural norms and what is acceptable.

Whatever it is, it has given me quite a bit to think about.

A teacher of mine once said, "always treat someone the way you would want your mother to be treated."

I would be horrified if people treated my mother that way.