Zia Hassan

The Pause Mid Flit


/flit/ verb

1. to move swiftly and lightly.

In a diner somewhere, there’s a waiter that is serving 10-15 tables for lunch. And each one of the customers has a different story. One was late to meet a friend, and it’s the only time she’s ever been late. One customer has just finished his final round of chemo, and the diner food is his celebration.

The waiter is flitting between these worlds, witnessing the essence of these stories. He’s trying to not become too curious, too interested; that would be unprofessional but would also make his job more emotionally taxing. His job is to provide a great customer experience, and to take some responsibility for occasional problems that he cannot control.

There’s a doctor in Iowa treating 12 patients today. Each of the patients has a different story. One patient has hypochondria, but also has a cold, and also recently lost her mother. One patient is feeling well, but the slight pain in his ribs is actually a kidney stone. Another patient is there with her three kids to get a flu shot, and she secretly hates all of them because they remind her of their father, who left years ago.

The doctor is flitting between these universes, trying not to get lost, or absorbed too deeply. Her job is to make sure that the patients are healthy. To get too involved would be unprofessional.

And yet.

These stories underlie the customer experience. When the doctor asks the age-old question, “What brought you here today?” they are pausing mid-flit, whether they like it or not. When the waiter asks, “What can I get for you?” he’s not just talking about food. And when the customer gives his dinner order, he’s hoping that the experience of eating food in this diner will cause some change in his life, however small.

All of us flit every day. At the mall, at our jobs, on the phone with customer service. The people we interact with have important stories to tell, stories that we conveniently ignore and shove aside because of the fear of information overload.

I’m not advocating that we start to flit less. But perhaps we should make our mid-flit pauses longer. If only for a second, to connect with someone who craves a connection.

A moment is all it takes. And the world would change.