I'm trying to be nice and it's not easy.
It's not my fault.
I am, by nature, an introvert and it's something I work on a lot. And also, as I may have mentioned, I'm from New York. When I used to work in the city, I could go weeks (months?) without saying so much as a word to anyone else during my commute. Just pop those headphones on (yeah, I'm that old) and go. If you don't keep your mouth closed and your feet moving, you'll get knocked over leaving the train station.
And then we moved to Florida and oh my. Because that's what people here say. They say things like "oh my" and wait, you'll like this one - "excuse me". So polite.
Everyone here is so, as Southerners would say, gosh darn happy to talk to everyone and their mother. Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said the and their mother part. Maybe that wasn't so nice. Arrrgh.
I don't know how to be fake nice. Is that what it is? Fake nice? Or are people really just so friendly here in the south? And when I say people, I mean people that I don't know - for example, the cashier, the mailman (mine is named Leonard), the lady who goes walking at the same time as me and for some reason must walk the same route at a slightly slower pace while humming. Okay, maybe that wasn't nice either. I'm sure she doesn't mean to follow me but it's so gosh darn annoying. And the humming, that she can control so no, I don't forgive her for that.
Okay, maybe that wasn't so nice to say either.
I'm trying, I really am. But I'm not one for small talk or chit chat or whatever you want to call it.
So in effort to be more, um, I don't even know what the word is, but how about this - LessNewYorky - I dedicated this past week to smiling at everyone I meet, saying hello and striking up a conversation.
This past week I have felt, in no specific order, crazy, creepy, and a tiny bit stalkerish.
And yet, oddly enough, also happy.
I tried to make friends with at least one person each day while I run errands.
(And please don't judge me by the fact that I visit a food store every single day).
On Monday I met a woman at Publix and we chatted for ten minutes about the Chanukah display at the end of the aisle, about which temple she used to attend and about how she thinks $1.99 for a box of Chanukah candles is an excellent price while I think it's highway robbery and that they should be max, 69 cents a box. She gave me her number and I pretended to create a new contact in my phone. I'm an awful awful person.
So I tried to be nicer the next day.
On Tuesday I talked to the cashier in Whole Foods for a good five minutes past the moment that she handed me back my credit card. I now know what she packs her kids for lunch in the morning (yogurt and some salami on crackers), how her husband should really pack those lunches because she works the morning shift (everyday) and how many croissants her son eats for breakfast (seven. Seven?!).
On Wednesday, I learned that the associate at Michael's actually thinks there is a better selection of paper punches at AC Moore and also that she prefers pistachio nuts in her brownies as opposed to walnuts. (Okay, Michael's is not technically a food store, but we talked food, and yuck, pistachios in your brownie!? Never mind. We're not being judgmental).
On Thursday, at World Market, I learned that the lady (Janey, if you must know) in the glass cookie jar aisle was also there trying to figure out what her husband should give out for holiday gifts at his office.
And then, after Janey and I parted ways, wishing each other luck and happy holidays, I headed to Publix to pick up a few things for Shabbos and there I met a woman who is in town on business. She stopped me to ask if there were any kosher restaurants in town and I had to say no, not yet but it didn't end there. I learned that she is from NY originally (and immediately wondered why she was talking to me) and that she moved to Atlanta a few years ago (so that's why she's talking to me). In my zeal to be friendly, I asked her if she needed anything, if she wanted to come for dinner (panicking at the same time because we have scrambled eggs on Thursday nights) and if she needed a place for Shabbos. Turns out, she travels for business often, is used to eating crackers and fruit and is staying in the same hotel as her conference so she can attend on Shabbos, and that it's all the way downtown.
But I did it. I was so proud of myself.
I made conversation with a stranger, I made small talk. I still don't enjoy it, but it's an important skill, one I have to work on further. My dream of sitting on my couch all day with an ice coffee and only talking to my best friends - and you know who you are - is probably not a realistic dream, especially that I live many many hours away from those friends these days.
So I will continue to make new friends. Random people. Because everyone has a story and if you listen carefully, you will see that the world around you is amazing, that each person has a past and a present that they are usually happy to share and at the end of the day, you have no idea how your smile or kind word changed someone's entire day for the better.
Unless people are warning each other that there's a wacko from New York who is still driving around with her New Jersey plates on her van, going around making eye contact and smiling. It's totally possible.