Invisibility. It sounds like a pretty handy superpower to have, considering it allows a person to live a life liberated from the mundane consequences of society. But there is a flaw inherently attached to receiving this superpower—the loss of your existence.
One might think the loss of your existence for a temporary amount of time might not be so bad, as it allows you to steal a candy bar from the C Store or walk in late to class. But when a person does not exist, they lose their basic rights because they are no longer seen as human. The fatal flaw of this superpower is that there is no voice for invisible people, because they cannot even prove their existence, much less their right to basic human rights.
The first time I became invisible was a few weeks after I started at Lawrence. It happened to me every Monday, Friday and Saturday afternoon at the same exact time and place. And continued throughout my sophomore and now junior year. Actually, I am getting paid to be invisible.
And you might be, too, if you work at Bon Appetit.
A magical thing happened once I donned the black hat and blue shirt bestowed upon me by Bon Appetit. Much like with Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, I could still see and touch the people around me, but they did not interact with me. And it was not just that they did not interact with me—I cannot count the amount of times people have literally run into me while I am working in the Commons. When I mention to my friends that I work in the Commons as a student supervisor they often act very surprised, even though I serve them directly almost every week.
When students come through the line, they don’t often glance at my face, and our conversations—if we have one, for many students are fond of pointing and grunting—often consist of two short lines, in which I ask if they want a bun with their burger and they say yes or no. And then ask for an entire plate of tater tots and maybe mumble a thank you as they shuffle away.
In our staff meetings, the student workers of Bon App often remark upon our various run-ins with students during the last week, such as avoiding being run into or waving at a close friend who did not recognize you (always awkward). And the only time we are ever actually sought out by students is when something is broken, a mess is made or someone wants to know if a dish is gluten free. But the few times I dropped entire crates of blue cups or spilled half a gallon of chocolate milk in the dining hall did earn me a few stares, even if the starers did not recognize me.
Why are the student workers of Bon App invisible? Maybe there is some invisibility magic sewn into our customary garb. Although I do not mind being paid to be invisible, it would be nice if every once in a while, friends would say hi to me while I am working.
I am not saying Bon App workers should be lumped in with the numerous other permanently invisible people in this country, such as illegal immigrants, homeless people and others who are hidden below the poverty line. These invisible people suffer severe consequences every day as they struggle to survive in a world where little to no ‘visible’ people know they exist or care about their needs. Bon App student workers may be invisible once we don our hats and aprons, but we have agency in choosing when and for how long we are invisible to those around us. People who actually possess the power of invisibility have no say in how long their sentences will last or the burden of not existing, of being human but being denied intrinsic rights. Until someone looks up from their plate and says hi to the familiar face serving them food, invisible people will continue to live without a voice in society.