A while ago I meandered into one of my favorite Italian restaurants to pick up an eggplant Parmesan sub I’d ordered over the phone.
I’d hustled in, looking down, already searching for my wallet in the bottomless pit that is my backpack, when an unexpectedly friendly greeting reached my ears.
Not a “Welcome, how may I take your order?” or a “Hi, would you like to try our new Stromboli?” But a genuine hello that resonated with agreeableness.
I actually had to look up from my rummaging to greet the person at the counter correctly.
“Uh, thanks.” I was quite taken aback.
Usually it was routine to mutter a barely intelligible “Hey, here for pick up,” but this time it seemed that I would actually have to muster up some semblance of congeniality.
(Spoiler: I suck at unexpected human interaction.)
“Hello, how are you doing today?” the twenty something year-old behind the counter asked me smiling. Again, with the authenticity dripping from his voice. His face made it seem like he actually expected a genuine reply. Not a dismissive “Good, I’m here to pick up my sub,” but an actual description of my state of well being.
Whoa. This guy’s almost making me believe he really cares even though I don’t know him from Adam, I thought to myself. Is this a trick? Did someone tell him how inept I am at social interaction so he could see for himself or something?
I squinted my eyes,
“Uh, goo~d,” I said, drawing the word out as I looked around for hidden cameras.
“Great to hear! What can I do for you today?” he replied still smiling.
The rest of the exchange was fairly normal after that but I was struck by how sad it was that I was so shocked by someone taking the time to look me in the eye when they spoke. So much of the service industry is so mechanic and geared toward efficiency that genuine social interaction surprised me more than it should have. It seriously confused me that had I chosen to actually give him a couple details about my day, I’m almost positive he would have engaged me in real conversation.
How sad is that?
I’m so used to the go-go-go nature of life that the fact that a cashier didn’t only view me as an entity with hands who happened to hold a credit card, was nearly Earth shattering. In that moment, I almost preferred he view me as a number, just customer number 486, rather than an actual person. It made me uncomfortable that I was expected to rouse myself out of my habitual stupor to interact with the world in front of me.
This hits me as a tragedy.
We so often wander around zombie-like in our predetermined routine that we’re startled and almost troubled when a drop of humanity ripples the still pool of everyday life.
After that encounter with the peppy cashier and realizing how ashamed I was at having turned into a walking dead, I try to stir myself out of my own daze by trying to startle others with unexpected interaction.
You know, just little things.
Beating the door greeter to a friendly hello. Asking a waiter how their day is going. These small plot twists go a long way.
I find these simple things help make at least a little piece of the world a little more awake.
Have you ever had an encounter that made you suddenly realize something was wrong with how you were viewing the world? Feel free to tell me in the comments. 🙂