Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to smile at a stranger.





Have you ever noticed how, after you've ordered your coffee at Starbucks, and you're standing at the pick-up counter - the one where the barista is busily frothing milk and pouring flavoured syrups into multiple paper cups - that you tend to stand in kind of a slouch and stare at them? As if to say HURRY UP WITH MY COFFEE I NEED IT YESTERDAY. I think I might. Sometimes. Not on purpose, and not because I mean to be pissy, but simply because standing there makes my body naturally take on that stance.

Yesterday as I was waiting for my chai, the girl making my drink and about another ten lined up behind it looked up at me and smiled. Just, like, for no reason at all. And I was forced to uncurve my frown and smile back at her. Because I, for one, cannot not smile at someone if they smile at me. I have to smile back.

And then, because I had been coerced into smiling, in public, at a stranger, I decided to try wearing the smile for a little longer. I peered around at the other customers in the line, all with their equally grumpy WHERE IS MY OVERPRICED COFFEE GODAMMIT faces, and realized, most of us probably look like that most of the time.

I realized then, I rarely smile at people when I'm out in public - usually I'm in a furious dash to get somewhere fast. In, out, home, quick, don't talk to me I don't have time.

When I lived in London, a smile from a stranger was a rare thing indeed. In fact, more often, a smile from a stranger (sadly) indicated something iffy - a guy trying to make a pass; a crazy person on the bus wanting to tell you their life story. For that reason I don't miss big city living and the anonymity that comes with it. Calgary by comparison is a very smiley place.

Anyway, my point is, it reminded me that it doesn't take much to smile at a stranger, and it doesn't cost anything either. And it's pretty amusing to see someone's grumpy face transform into a happy face. And who knows - maybe they needed that smile, even if it was from a complete stranger and someone they may never see again. Or maybe they'll resist the smile altogether and keep wearing their frown. Whatever.


So occasionally, when I remember, I'm going to smile at a stranger. Just because.

And I swear that yesterday, my coffee tasted better from the girl who passed the smile onto me.
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13 comments:

Midwest Mommy said...

I usually only smile at strangers when they are giving me nasty looks because my kids are being loud. I get in a better mood and they get more pissed off. Win-Win in my book!
I promise though I'll try harder :-)

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

I am a mad smiler at people. way too much. i am not sure if it is from growing up in Minnesota?
Small town Minnesota at that. I love a good smile, don't you?

LisaDay said...

A-oh. I think you might have avoided me at various places. I am one of those smile – and say hello – to strangers people.

LisaDay

Bear and Bones Mama said...

Love this post. I try to remember to smile when I'm in public. Luckily I live in Boulder where it's considered weird NOT to say hello to strangers.

So, this is me, a stranger, smiling a good morning at you.

SMILE

Lady Mama said...

Midwest Mommy - Yup, I do that too.

Sara - I need to take a lesson from you.

LisaDay - if someone smiles at me I always try to smile back. Honest!

Bear and Bones Mama - it's nice (and odd) to live somewhere where smiling isn't weird.

Mwa said...

I like smiling at people, too. It's not done much here either, but I persist because sometimes I can see it makes people's days, and it makes my life better too.

Christy said...

I love this post. That's one of the things I love about living in Southern USA .. more often than not, people smile at you as you walk past. I noticed that alot in college, and I have tried to pass that along in my post college years.

Oh, and people smile at you alot when you have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, lol!

Have a great day!

:-D

fiona2107 said...

Great post!
I grew up in a small (1,000 people) town in the south of Australia where everyone knew everyone and smiling was second nature.
Then I moved to Sydney where NO-ONE smiles and like London , if you do, people immediately become suspicious!

I think I might take up random smiling! Thanks for the idea!

Metropolitan Mum said...

I admit it, I am one of the 'iffy' ones. I smile randomly at people, especially when I am pushing a pram. Oh. Wait. No. Scrap that. I am almost always smiling. I am just a ridiculously happy person, most of the time. So, my life story goes something like this...

Nikosmommy said...

This post made me laugh. We most definitely smile a LOT here in Calgary... and when I'm in Europe every summer I have to remember to STOP smiling when out grocery shopping/running errands etc, because people DO look at you like you're a crazy person. Though Smiles can be contagious (depending on what country you're in!!!)

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

I smile back at people too, although sometimes, when the smile comes out of nowhere, it almost shocks me into a half smile/half who are looking at. So confusing. Then again, I ALWAYS smile at the barista - they make my coffee after all, and I need that to be perfect. :)

Loukia said...

Aww. It's so true. A smile can really brighten someone's day and I know when other people - strangers, etc. - smile at me, I smile back and then, well, happy!!

Loukia said...

Aww. It's so true. A smile can really brighten someone's day and I know when other people - strangers, etc. - smile at me, I smile back and then, well, happy!!