January 30th, 2008
I was in the grocery store the other day, buying a wee load of fruits and veggies. I was in the same kind of mood I always am when I come home from work: a little peeved, ready to get home and fix myself a drink and put on sonic youth. I’m sure it showed.
Anyway, as I was being rung up I noticed the cashier: she seemed down at the mouth, surly. I recognized her; she was always like that. Then I noticed the bagger, a new dude, some 40 or 50 year old guy, bald, sweetcheeked, kindly. I could tell by his patter and body language that he was keeping up his valiant good humor in the face of the cashier’s bitterness. A little checkout line cold war.
Anyway, all that shit I sussed out unconsciously and it led me to smile at him and say: “Hey there, how you doin?”. His response was immediate. He smiled with enthusiasm, we exchanged small talk (“wish this rain would stop” “cant wait to go home”), and I truly had the sense that I’d lifted this man’s spirits.
Meanwhile the cashier was still harrumphy. She said something under her breath to him about “hurrying up” as he was putting my stuff away. The bagger maintained his composure and said something like “yes, well, I’m going to double bag for this young man since he took the time to be nice”. I was touched. It was so direct and simple and honest and I was mildly shaken by it. I collected my food, said a few more things to the bagger, and left, moved.
On the walk home, I was a little perplexed. Why had that encounter left me so touched? Was it that I helped combat the cashier’s grumpiness by assisting the bagger in this little unspoken temporary alliance we’d formed? Was I pleased to realize the effect a little smiling talk had on the guy? Was I happy to have someone else assess me in such a positive light, and — despite the crusty way I was feeling that night, and despite the way I feel about myself in general — be able to summarize me as a happy, “nice” young man?
A little bit of all that I guess. All I know is it started with a simple, unconscious decision to smile instead of remain emotionally aloof. I felt such a powerful sense of the direct impact you can have on people in your day to day life. All with the subtlest of modulations of your voice & face. The rest of the day I sat with myself thinking: what the fuck? Why don’t I do this more often? Direct, face to face contact that leaves everyone involved feeling bolstered and glad.
But here I am fucking blogging about it instead of going about and trying to make it happen more.