I just came from the market and I was struck by something which usually sits just beneath my level of awareness; people were not friendly. I’m not referring here to the helpfulness of the store employees. That varies from store to store and is dependent upon the organizational culture. What I’m talking about is the customers. They duck in and out of the store with little or no eye contact avoiding any chance for conversation. And this is in a small city just north of San Francisco that is known for being civic minded. What’s up with that? Is it me or is it a general aversion to human contact?
Well, as is my wont, I got to thinking. It dawned on me that the grocery store is now really the public commons for so many of us in modern American culture. No matter how long you are in the house watching TV, gaming or on the internet, you have to eventually emerge from your cocoon to fulfill that basic survival need, eating. For many of us this may be the only time all day that we are in contact with other human beings other than in the work setting. With more of us working and living alone this chance for interaction is even more important.
I would venture to say that how you are in the grocery store is how you are in the world and, as I have observed, from the looks of things it doesn’t bode well for humanity where I live. If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I have been guilty of giving off some attitude in the store myself.
So my question would be, how can we make the grocery store and hence our small part of the world a better place? It’s hard when you are used to being in your bubble but the solution is simple: make eye contact, smile and say hello to someone the next time you are in the store. They might think you’re forward or out of your mind but it has to start somewhere. Be assured, you will make a big difference in the happiness and sense of belonging quotient for at least a few people if you do it enough. You might even help to gradually change the culture of indifference.
Case in point, a friend was in the grocery store the other day and a woman came up to him and asked if she could give him a hug for National Hug Day. He awkwardly said OK and they exchanged a hug. You wouldn’t believe how happy he was to tell me about this. And, no, it was not a sexual turn on for him. In his words, ”I was shocked. That was a nice gesture which I really appreciated”. A little something goes a long way. It’s great if you can leave someone a little happier when you cross their path…