Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Quest for (Awkward) Social Encounters

Lately I've been thinking a lot of how people interact with each other in public. People in this case, meaning strangers and public meaning stores, public transportation, etc. Where I reside, in the DC metro area people are always so concerned with getting to their next destination, what they're going to make for dinner that night, beating traffic, etc, that they never take the time to notice people around them much less have a conversation with them.

Where I've noticed this as of late is at the checkout in stores. I am always thrilled when I have an animated checker who makes a funny comment about something I'm buying, or even just simply asking how my day is going. Me, being me, always happily strikes up a conversation and will chat with them literally about anything.

This happened the other day when I was in Target. It was the day after Black Friday and I asked the checker how crazy it was there on Black Friday. He started telling me about his experience (some negative, some positive) and as he talked to me the lady behind me started to tap her foot and clear her throat. I ignored it and continued to talk with the very pleasant checker. I LOVE when people like him are so animated and love their job. I see it all the time at other stores where employees drag there feet and barely say Hello to you.

Now I happen to be an extreme example of someone who interacts with strangers on a daily basis. It is completely normal for me to strike up a conversation with a random stranger for sometimes really no reason. This past weekend I was at Grant's high school reunion. Only about 75 people showed up (probably due to the Holidays) but I had a blast. Grant knew many of the people there, but not all of them. I though only knew two people, one who I had met while playing Frisbee with Grant and one that I knew online mostly through facebook. The other people, no clue. But heck I had to entertian myself while Grant caught up with his people. So I randomly went up to people and starting talking to them (I had wanted to go up to the group of cheerleaders crowding around a table and just start pretending that I went to school with them throwing out "Oh you don't remember me? I sat behind you in Math class" type of comments. Grant didn't want me to embarras him too much though so I refrained).

One girl had this really cool tattoo of a Voodoo doll so of course I went up and started talking to her about it. Turns out she was a girlfriend of a kid Grant went to school with so she didn't know anyone either. We started talking a lot and soon I even pulled her out onto the dance floor and had her dancing with us. That's another thing, all the "Popular" people were just standing around with their drinks where as the group of us (Grant included) were tearing it up on the dance floor, kicking off our shoes and dancing to Gagnam Style (yes at this point I had, had a couple of drinks). We had a great time and it didn't matter if we didn't know each other at all. At the end of the night I got big hugs and even a kiss on the cheek from one guy (since he was gay, Grant was cool with it). It just goes to show that beign uptight and thinking that you can't talk to strangers won't get you anywhere in life.

I'd rather be that awkward girl that goes up to random people, holds up check out lines in stores, and comments on people's unique attributes than someone who rushes through life not paying attention to those amazing people around her.

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Lilac Wolf (Angie or Angela) said...

Ha - nope, not about me. I'm the awkward person who avoids eye contact, most social situations and most especially any kind of conflict. Put me in a remote location in the country, give me internet and I'm good. :)

Although I will say I'm always friendly with the staff anywhere I visit. If nothing else, my mom taught me to smile and be polite. You are polite, that woman tapping her foot is RUDE.

Unknown said...

It's great how you like to engage check-out clerks/store people (and I firmly believe that they deserve a lot more respect than they get, having been one for many years), but one thing I feel is wrong with what you had done-being disrespectful to the person behind you in line. You have no idea whether that woman was on her lunch hour, or helping relatives (given that it was Thanksgiving weekend, that's not really out of the question), or having to go legitimately be someplace else.

While it's admirable that you want to engage people who are otherwise "invisible", being rude or disrespectful to fellow shoppers, regardless of the season, is no better. And, most times, the people behind you will take it out on the checker, pretty much negating any good intentions you may have.

Another point is that some of these stores have timeframes for how long they should be helping people-and by keeping them chatting, you could also be causing them problems with their managers/supervisors (particularly this time of year)-and, I assure you, there are some managers out there who will make some of these people's lives living hell.

If the place/store is empty or relatively quiet-by all means, chat them up as long as they don't get in trouble and you're not holding someone else up. But if there are people behind you, or the place is busy-please be mindful-you can still be nice and courteous, but you don't have to have a full-blown conversation with them.

From someone who has been on the other side of the register, thank you for your kindness.

Sam Curtin said...

Angie, I have no doubt you are anything but friendly! There's a big difference between being shy and being too busy to be friendly.

Sam Curtin said...

Annette, my intention wasn't to hold anyone up. Maybe I should've specified that this was while he was ringing me up and only lasted maybe a minute or so after I was done paying. This was also on a Saturday afternoon and there were plenty of other open checkers she could've gone to.

I see what you are saying, but this post was supposed to show that people (in this area especially) don't take the time to even utter a simple hello. Thank you for your feedback :)

Alexis Kennedy said...

You totally rock

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