Occasionally, I make an effort to be nice to strangers. I have this theory that it makes me a better person.
“So, once in a while, I manage to put aside my preconceived notion that everyone may be out to ‘get me’, and try to forget all I know about the vast majority of the general public — many of whom play the lottery and watch Big Brother, I might add.”
So, once in a while, I manage to put aside my preconceived notion that everyone may be out to ‘get me’, and try to forget all I know about the vast majority of the general public — many of whom play the lottery and watch Big Brother, I might add. With my mind blissfully free of such negative thoughts, I can genuinely attempt to connect with and appreciate fellow human beings with which I have no shared history. On exceptionally rare occasions, I’ll even attempt it early in the morning, when I’d normally be grumpy and snarling. I’m quite proud of myself on those days.
Today was one of those days.
On the way to work this morning, still bleary-eyed and foggy-headed, I stopped by my bank to cash a check. There were two tellers behind the counter, and two customers being served. So I moseyed up to the velvet ropes to wait my turn.
A moment later, a third person appeared behind the counter. It was a thirty-ish woman, dressed conservatively in an understated grey suit, attractive in a professional sort of way. I glanced at her, and she looked back and said:
‘Sorry, I’m not a teller.‘
Apparently, I was having a good morning, because instead of shrugging and staring at the floor, or sighing loudly, or saying, ‘Well, why aren’t, you, bitch?‘, I smiled at her and said:
‘It’s okay. You don’t have to be.‘
She smiled back, and I felt a little warm twinge. Just a little one — that summery, glowy feeling you get when you think you may have brightened someone’s day. The same twinge you might get from opening a door for a stranger, or letting a car into traffic in front of you. Maybe there’s something to this ‘being nice to people’ thing, after all.
I thought that would be the end of the exchange, but she kept smiling as she asked:
‘How are you? Your day’s going well?‘
Bonus niceties. Wow. If I kept this up, maybe they’d give me some extra money with that check I was cashing. So I replied:
‘Yes, it’s a pretty good day so far. And how’s yours?‘
‘It’s very good, thanks for asking.‘
By this time, one of the tellers had freed up, so I nodded and made my way toward the window. But I’d learned an important lesson — sometimes, if you get out of your own head and open up a little, you can make a genuine and friendly connection with someone. However brief they might be, it’s these moments that sometimes get us through a difficult day, or a sleepy morning. Above all else, this little encounter proved to me that not everyone out there is out to get you, or wants something from you, or has their own selfish agenda. If you can be nice just for the sake of being nice, your efforts will be rewarded in kind, no strings attached.
My day fully brightened, I approached the window — and was surprised to hear the not-a-teller lady continue to speak:
‘So, I’m just wondering…‘
What time it is? About nine thirty. Where I got this fresh kicky rugby shirt? American Eagle, thanks for asking. If I’d like to have coffee sometime? I’m flattered, really, but I’m a happily married man. And you don’t want to see me on caffeine. You wouldn’t like me on caffeine.
‘…would you be interested in talking to one of our 401k plan management counselors?‘
Son of a bitch. She’s not friendly. She’s selling.
‘Well, how about learning about our personal CDs? The rates are very competitive.‘
I fricking hate people. I knew no good could come from being nice.
‘Sorry, I’m in kind of a hurry today.‘
‘That’s okay — just leave a number. We’ll call you, and set up a whole series of appointments.‘
Look at those cold dead eyes. How could I not have noticed those cold dead eyes? You don’t connect with these people. You avoid eye contact, and hope you can escape before they eat your brains.
‘I don’t think so. I’m just cashing a check today.‘
‘Well, in case you want to call us, here’s my card. And a brochure. And a pamphlet. Here’s a flyer. And another brochure. Don’t forget this rate sheet. And this prospectus. And a services catalog. And a sticker with our logo. And check out the posters on your way out!‘
That does it. From now on, I’m giving my checks to my wife to cash. And I’m using the ATM for all my transactions. And forget about being nice to strangers, especially in the morning. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. Fucking people, man.Permalink | 3 Comments