I set the bottle of water on the front desk at the gym.
“That’ll be $2.00, Lee.”
I’d never had a conversation with the woman behind the counter, so I was surprised when she used my name. But she’d just scanned my membership card five minutes prior, so I figured that’s how she knew it.
“How’d you know my name?”
“You’re in here pretty often.”
“Not for a while. I’ve been helping to take care of my mom on the other side of town.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s wrong with her?”
She went on to ask how old my mom was doing, and how long the doctors thought she’d be down—all of which are questions that went above and beyond simple pleasantries. Then she wished her a speedy recovery.
It gave me a temporary pep in my step when I climbed onto the treadmill.
As an introvert, I’m skeptical of small talk with strangers, especially in a setting like this. Small talk doesn’t come easy for me and I’m always thinking the business is working the engage-in-enough-small-talk-and-the-customer-will-believe-we-care angle, rather than actually caring.
But not this time.
This time, I put myself out there a little bit—offering a little personal information, and it was worth it.
I’m also pretty skeptical of small talk in social situations.
If a real estate agent approaches me at a party and strikes up a conversation, I’m always waiting for him or her to try to close the deal and offer me his or her card.
I attended a party once where a woman was wearing a button that said something like, “I lost 78 pounds. Ask me how.” I’d sooner try to swim the English Channel than ask such a question, knowing I’d just open the door to listen to a five-minute spiel about one program or another that she would be sure to receive kickback for if I signed up. Sure enough, somebody else took the bait and I tuned out when the spiel began.
I should say I also have a crunchy feeling about being a regular. On one hand, I like the comforting feeling of familiarity. On the other hand, I often wonder what the other person is thinking.
I hit a coffee shop drive-thru by my house once in a while. More times than not, I get the same barista who, while she isn’t big on small talk, knows I don’t want a straw or a lid on my skinny white mocha blender (Frappuccino, for those of you who prefer Starbucks). So she hands my coffee out the window without the straw or lid, no questions asked.
The first time she did that, I was amazed that she remembered me. I know, I know. Baristas are supposed to remember regulars. But it’s surprising how much being remembered in such a small way means so much. Maybe it’s because I’m accustomed to feeling invisible. I’m not complaining about that. I prefer to remain in the shadows.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to make genuine connections. It just means I’m a bit guarded as I venture out. Part of that is my personality. Part of that is my experience. And part of that is my weight. But none of these things stops me from living. And as I do, I’m often pleasantly surprised by others who also want to connect in small ways.