I have had some of the most interesting conversations while in a check out line.  One day I unloaded my groceries and was waiting my turn.  The cashier finished with the customer in front of me and turned, asking: “How are you today?”  I responded: “I am well, how are you?”  She then launched into a lengthy diatribe regarding the general populace who would respond “I am good.”  It seems it was this cashiers personal mission in life to educate others on the difference between well and good.  My ears were ringing by the time my groceries were packed and placed in my cart, and the cashier felt that at least one person in the world understood her stance.

Another day I was at a home improvement store, only to have the cashier ask if I had ever been to Tennessee.  At that particular time, I had yet to do more than pass through Tennessee, which is what I told her.  She then got a maniacal glint in her eye (I kid you not, I have witnesses that can attest to this) and started talking about the mountains of Tennessee.  She told us that there were “lots a hidin’ places in the mountains” interspersing her story with cackle’s of glee.   I began to panic as she became more and more animated about those “hidin’ places.”  I darn near ran out of the store.

That hasn’t stopped me from talking to just about anyone as I wait.  I have talked to mothers dealing with restless children, older folks who struggle to unload their own carts (so I help and that gives me a chance to say hi), and college students who are just as bored as I am.  I have stooped down to converse with little children, and encouraged older kids to help their parents unload.  I will chit-chat with the cashier the entire time they are helping me, unless they are one of those stick in the mud types – and even then I will force them to respond, because I like making their job that much more painful.  If I can illicit a smile on someone’s face that seems to be having a bad day, or engage a child while a harried mother takes care of business, I can feel all the more worthwhile.

I have had people tell me their life story in those few minutes, or share with me private joys and celebrations.  I am just a stranger, and yet there is something about me that seems to make people want to share.  I don’t mind this, I enjoy engaging people in conversation – but sometimes I am surprised at how open people will be with me.  I have thought about this, studying the costumers around me as they wait in line.  So many people are bored, frustrated, worried, talking on their phones, running late, or sure the cashier is there to gyp them that they become rude or distracted.  It is rare to see a smile shared.

My Dad was always of the opinion that you should smile even if you don’t want to.  When you walk into a room with a smile on your face, and they are expecting you to be upset, you can disarm them faster than any other way.   It is rare for others to not join in if they see you smile.   It’s not always easy, there are times when I am grumpy and upset – but it is rarely the cashier’s fault, or even the people around me.  As a testamony to my love of people I attempt to muster a smile and a pleasant greeting to those that I meet.  It has never once been a detriment to my shopping experience – but it has made my life a more positive place.  Cashiers have bent over backwards to assist me when I am nice and other customers have taken away the boredom of the wait.

Try my advice for a few shopping trips and see the changes that ensue.  May a smile be your umbrella.

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