“Para Espanol, Oprima el Dos”

We’ve all heard this message, when we’ve called our healthcare provider, or our bank, or what used to be the cable company.

“Push 2 if you’d like to continue in Spanish,” is what it says.

In the last two weeks, struggling with the byzantine American healthcare system, I’ve had recorded voices at the start of the customer care maze say this sentence….with the most outrageously, embarrassingly American accent you could possibly imagine. It’s a caricature of bad Spanish.

Only two things could be happening here, one worse than the other:

  1. The company doesn’t know that the Spanish being spoken is abysmal
  2. The company knows that it is abysmal, but doesn’t care enough to fix it

Think about this: if you press the number ‘2’, presumably the company will have native Spanish speakers for you to speak to. Which means they don’t have an access-to-native-Spanish-speakers problem, they have a caring about the customer problem, or a bureaucracy problem, or a “I just do what the boss tells me” problem.

Both ignorance and not caring are a terrible place to end up, but we don’t get there all at once.

We get there because those in charge enable a culture tolerates disengagement, and because those not in charge decide it’s easier to follow the rules or to hide than it is to take things personally and to take pride in all of our work.

Teaching caring at scale is a hard thing to do.

It’s also the only thing that separates us from the gravitational pull of mediocrity.

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