What's interesting to me is that the most unexpected things from this trip were the positive encounters I had with people along the way. I'm not really a people person. At least, that's what my mom has always told me. (She would know. She's an extrovert to the max.) But, I'm finding that people are pretty cool. All over the place. Not just in my circles.
I've always blamed my standoffish-ness on growing up in the not-overtly-friendly Mid-Atlantic. I don't think this is necessarily true. Sure, people are probably less gregarious there, but I think the "problem" lies squarely on my own shoulders. I'm learning that a smile and a few spoken words are relatively painless to offer. And the reward is usually far greater than any effort I put forth to engage another human.
We were in Albuquerque, New Mexico when Noah developed a pretty heinous diaper rash. I offered to go to the store to pick up some diaper cream (and some, ahem, Wild Cherry Pepsi because caffeinated beverages were essential for our sanity). Grocery stores are weird out there, and since they were all unfamiliar I just went to the closest, an Albertson's. The prices were excellent, so I snagged a couple 12 packs of "pop" (because when in New Mexico, say as the New Mexicans say). When I got to the register, I panicked a little.
"What if I need an Albertson's card to get the sale prices? What if I have to sign up for a card and all of the people behind me get mad?"
I looked at the young couple behind me. They were probably in high school, buying a cart full of candy. Then I looked at the man in front of me. He was a grumpy looking Native American man wearing a baseball hat and jeans. He was buying three packs of cinnamon rolls with bright orange $1 stickers on them. I did something out of character for me. I engaged.
"Excuse me, sir. Do you have to have a card to get the sale price? I'm not from around here, and I don't really need an Albertson's card."
He turned and looked at me. He smiled. All at once that grumpy look on his face melted away. He replied, "I don't think so, but I have one. I'll slip it to you after I use it. Then you can slip it back to me."
It was nice of him. I giggled (I always do), and said, "Thanks. I really appreciate it."
When it came time for him to check out, he handed his card over to the cashier who gave it back to him after he scanned it. Then, my favorite part, the sweet Native American man took the card and passed it behind his back to me while maintaining eye contact with the cashier in a covert-ops kind of way. I stifled a giggle so as not to give away his secret and grabbed it from him.
I checked out in about 15 seconds because I only had a couple items, and walked to hand the sweet man his card back who was waiting a few paces from the exit door. As I extended my hand to give it back, he shook his head and widened his eyes. I looked around to see who was looking and said, "Oh, did you want me to slip it back covertly?" He smiled again and nodded. So I passed it behind my back to him. We went our separate ways in the parking lot. We'll never see each other again.
It's a silly story, really. But it made my night. I'd have missed that little encounter if I'd kept my head down. You see, I'm learning that people are awesome. If you give them the chance to be.
Be awesome today. Just start with a smile.