I had an epiphany recently. I was rushing through my day, completely ignoring humanity in general, when I utilized a drive-thru restaurant facility to quick-quick-hurry-get-some-food. I pulled through the first window, handed over my money like a drone on auto-pilot, retrieved my receipt with a general look of "who gives a crap" on my face, and headed to the second window to pick up my food.
Somewhere, between the first and second window came the epiphany, an appetizer to the Big Mac, if you will. It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn't being friendly.
I felt like Adam & Eve in the garden, suddenly naked. I felt a sudden twinge of... of... guilt! Why, I hadn't even bothered to look at the face of the person taking my money. And I certainly hadn't smiled at her and been friendly. All of a sudden, I was ashamed of myself. I could do better! And I should! There was no reason not to do better, for the good of all humanity, or at least the good of the drive-thru workers.
For all I knew, one of them could be suicidal, clinically depressed, or just having a crappy day. And me coming through the line, thoroughly indifferent and normal... well, that was not going to help anybody.
So when I got to the second window, I looked the lady directly in the eye and said, "Hello," as she handed me my food. I smiled. On purpose. At her. Not only that, but when she was through handing me my food, I looked her in the eye again and said, "Thank you! You have a wonderful day!" I smiled again. On purpose.
The experiment was going well. I received a response that was similar to what I projected. Smile. Happy. Nice. Repeat!
Since it went so well at the drive-thru, I decided to try my experiment at Wal-Mart. I went through the checkout and addressed the checker with genuine friendliness. Again, I smiled and thanked her and told her to have a wonderful day. This was awesome. You'd think I was the one providing the service!
And there was Ian, the subject of the My Love/Hate Relationship with Wal-Mart post, right at the next register, reminding me that I was doing the right thing and I should be proud of myself.
I was on fire! Watch me burn, baby.
On the way out the door, I got totally crazy. I started smiling at strangers. Now, I think it's very nice to do this and most people smiled back, but here's a list of commentary I think may have been going through their minds:
- Do I know her?
- Does she think she knows me?
- That lady must have something wrong with her, smiling at random strangers. That's not right.
- Why is she smiling? Did she just fart?
- What's wrong? Is there something on my face?
- What's wrong with that lady? Does she want to kidnap my children?
- Is that girl high?
- That lady is waaaayyyy too happy.
- (Male) Is she flirting with me? I am having a pretty good hair day.
- (Female) Is she flirting with me? She must be a lesbian.
I challenge you to smile at somebody you wouldn't normally smile at today, say a kind thing, and see if you get a free order of happiness with that effort.
What does this smile say to you?