Of late, I’ve taken on yet another new assignment.
I’m “chat coaching,” a steep-learning-curve experience I assure you.
Should you be unfamiliar with chat coaching, I shall explain. I log into a website from my home computer, which is connected to a main server in cyberspace. On the other side of the void, should someone need guidance, they click on a button on their screen and their “call” is routed to me on my computer. He or she types. I reply via the same method. If you were asking, “Wouldn’t it be easier with a phone?” The answer is probably “yes.” However, that’s not how it works and I’ve agreed to the terms. To be honest, I’m actually growing to enjoy the procedure – short of the carpal tunnel issues for which I must be on guard.
In effect, this type of communication can be best analogized as a very slow moving conversation, especially since the policies require appropriate grammar, correct spelling, and avoiding emoticons and abbreviations (like “BTW” or “LOL”). The repercussions of having such time in between transactions allow one’s thoughts to drift, which lends itself to me making judgments — fair or otherwise — about who is on the other end, based entirely on how long it takes for a reply and what shows up when it happens.
With that as backstory, today someone logged in and began the conversation with the most ridiculously moronic questions.
“Really?” I thought, “Are you serious?”
Her query was so “beyond the pale,” that I first assumed I had snared a “troll.” (No, not the long-haired, full-bellied, naked toys of the seventies. Rather these are nasty individuals who enjoy annoying, frustrating, or insulting other people in cyberspace, merely because they can get away with it.)
Yet, with the passage of a few paragraphs of correspondence, I understood that the young woman on the other end wasn’t trolling, but was instead severely developmentally disabled. Obviously, her skill set allowed use of the system but her text was burdened with so many typos, it was near impossible to untangle, and the speed at which she replied would make a beginning typist feel like a thirty-year executive secretary. But most importantly, she couldn’t grasp even the simplest concepts.
The lights on my screen flashed, informing me that others were waiting and I started becoming frustrated.
“Come on already,” my inner curmudgeon moaned, “Speed it up, will ya? Other folks are standing in line.” Of course, I didn’t type that into the window, and I’m not necessarily proud of how I felt, but my mood was jumping off a cliff.
Yet once I realized I was in this for the duration, something delightful occurred. Instead of getting all bound up, I was able to adjust my attitude, and realized that all that mattered was what was directly in front of me, not what was inside of me. Somewhere, on the other end of the Internet, was a woman likely utilizing all of her skills to reach out for help. For whatever reason — in this moment and place in time — she had been directed to me.
The process abruptly shifted from burden to blessing. I was gifted with the opportunity to lighten someone else’s load. I slowed down and patiently waited for each letter to crawl across the screen, attempting to put myself in her place and understand not what she wrote, but rather what she needed. And you know what? It became a humbling experience as well as a great honor.
As the conversation closed, she typed (albeit very slowly), “Thank yew, yew reily helped.”
I made a difference. I mean, how cool is that?
The only thing I had to do was to get out of my own way and let it happen.