Friday, January 30, 2009

Look At Me

ElemenoB and Thumbelina joined me for my bi-monthly all-day marathon grocery shopping trip last Saturday. As we were leaving the third store on our route ElemenoB made an interesting observation:

"People at the store just look at each others grocery carts when they walk past. Nobody looks at anybody's face."

I had never really thought about that before, but decided to see for myself if it was true in the next supermarket. Sure enough, not one person with a shopping cart looked at me. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. So I decided to do something about it at our last stop.

Let's call it an experiment in human nature.

From the time we left the car, I looked into the face of every person who passed me.

"Hello there!" I said to the cart-collector in the parking lot.

I got one of those slight-upwards-nod-of-the-head movements in return.

"Welcome to Walmart," the door-greeter said in his monotone, I-hate-my-job voice.

"Thanks! I LOVE shopping here!" I replied, which was a little bit of a lie, but it solicited a friendly half-wave as I continued walking. So I think it was worth it.

"How are you today?" I asked an older gentleman in passing in the produce section.

"Very well, thank you. You have a good day!" he replied.

This was fun.

Eye contact, smiles, and an occasional word met every shopper who passed my cart.

In frozen foods, a twenty-something scanned the Bagel Bites.

"Hi!" I called to her with a smile on my face.

She looked behind her. Nobody there. She looked back at me.

"Um, hi." she answered, closing the freezer and avoiding eye contact, as she pushed her cart past me.

No Bagel Bites today, apparently.

In the peanut butter aisle I passed a woman dressed in her Sunday best.

"I love your dress!" I exclaimed.

She looked at my cart.

"That's a lot of peanut butter."

"Yes," I replied, "I have a lot of kids and they all love peanut butter."

"Hmmm. Have a good one." she said as she continued down the aisle.

"You too!" I called after her.

In the dairy section I encountered my toughest case. Her hair was 3 shades of purple along with some of (what I assumed was) her natural brown. One colorful, glittery eye peeked out from behind her long bangs and I couldn't count all of her facial piercings. She was perusing the many varieties of yogurt.

"Hello," I said, looking her in the (one) eye.

She continued perusing. Yoplait or Dannon? Mountain Dairy or Great Value?

"I really like Mountain Dairy," I offered.

She went back to Yoplait. Ignoring me.

Should I give up? I thought to myself.

I am not a quitter.

"Have you ever tried this kind before?" I asked, holding up some Dannon.

She turned and looked me square in the eye.

She pulled her headphones out of her ears.

"Were you saying something to me?" she asked.

"Oh, I didn't realize you had headphones in," I answered, slightly embarrassed. "I was just saying hello. You know, making friendly conversation. Nothing important. Sorry to bother you."

"Hey, lady," she called to me as I walked away.

I turned. "Yeah?"

"Hello. And I like your shoes."

I looked at my shoes, then back up at her. "Thanks."

"No problem. You have a good one, ok?" she said with a smile.

"Yeah, you too." I responded.

Here I was, trying to see how others would respond to me, and this young woman's smile made my day.

Happiness can come in the most unexpected packages.

photo from


sue-donym said...

You have inspired me. I will try this next time I shop.

Holmes said...

Gerb, you amaze me. I'm seriously at a loss for words. You're just such an example of goodness. Keep it up. And keep blogging about it. You truly are inspiring. said...

I LOVE this post! It is so true!
Thanks for sharing it with us! I loved reading it!

Rebecca said...

I'm not kidding when I tell you that I made the same observation as your daughter, at the grocery store, after moving back to this place a month ago! You'd think this would be an especially friendly atmosphere, but surprisingly, it's not so much. Way to make a change, Gerb!

Gina said...

Funny. I have noticed that for a long time now. Everybody seems to be checking out everyone else's carts, me included. It seems to be the fastest way to THINK we get to know something about that person by only knowing their groceries. Sometimes I will see things that strike my fancy and then find myself buying the same thing. I have had an occassion or two when I ask what they are planning on making with a particular item. Recipes on the go, I call it.

Mom not Mum said...

What a great experiment - I might just have to try that. I chat quite often at the grocery store I'm like Gina - oh those look good what do you do with them? lol

Michelle said...

This is so true, I've tried it myself sometimes, but not to the extent of your experiment. I can picture you saying "I love shopping here" the the Walmart greeter and it cracks me up!
Funny how the most seemingly unapproachable person made your day. Life's like that sometimes.

Chelle! said...

You make me laugh!!! It is so true!! It happened to me tonight while I was stranded. Hilarious!! No one looks you in the eyes--only your shopping cart.

Sister Pottymouth said...

I love this!!

Funny...I never look into others' shopping carts. It feels too private. Yeah, I know--weird me. I'd rather look at their faces.

Teachinfourth said...

People always look at me when I go to the store.

Hhmmmm. Are you sure you didn't have any eye crusties or maybe some boogers on your face which made them afraid to look at you?