• Karen

The toilet paper of the apocalypse

Updated: Apr 12

The last face-to-face work I did before the Covid 19 lock down was teaching a course in customer service communication. Despite having an official textbook, I filled the last days of the class with activities and discussions about current affairs and how they might impact my students trying to enter the world of customer service. This meant that for a few days "the toilet paper of the apocalypse" was a surreal yet serious topic in my course. Again I was reminded of the importance of soft-skills training and well-rounded education. Understanding proper telephone technique or what makes a great website were no-brainers for my students. Discussing the intricacies of superior social media engagement--they could have done that in their sleep. But delving into the concepts of panic buying, the emotional labor of customer service, and the need for self-care as business professionals...those bits were trickier. 

My students left class and now confront a world where:

  • Many of the entry-level customer service jobs they were hoping to get have been phased out as businesses close down

  • Corporations and institutions (like colleges) are embracing online/remote work, with varying degrees of success

  • Economies all over the world prepare emergency plans for the sick, vulnerable and unemployed, because not all work can be done from a home computer

  • We now know that people with badger store clerks and start physical fights over consumer goods...like toilet paper

As a society we must become students of humanity. This doesn't always have to mean classes in sociology, psychology, or philosophy (Though I believe this to be important), but we had better learn to understand each other, and ourselves before it's too late. People are frightened, angry, disappointed, and feel like the world is spinning out of control. No, not just the people you see on the news -- your friends, your neighbors, your family, maybe even you. These feelings mean we won't always make the best decisions or be a joy to be around. All the areas neglected by our education system are precisely what we need now: good listening skills, critical thinking, scientific literacy, civics and ethics. Sure, if you've got the time to take an online class in one of these areas, go for it. In the meantime, start practicing these soft skills, encourage your friends and family to do so too, and discuss your human experience. After all we live in a society and we need to protect it. 

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