Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shelley's Takeaways

As I've been looking for my chance to do some good this week I've also been working on some basic behavioral changes and I've been thinking. A lot. The behavioral changes have been for me as much (if not more) as for anyone else, so I guess I can't really call them good deeds, but here's a little round up of some of the small things I've been doing and some general thoughts that have been percolating in the old dome.

1. Take off your sunglasses indoors. I'm the biggest culprit of keeping my sunglasses on constantly (e.g., in the grocery store, in the elevator, every time I fly - regardless of the time/lighting, etc.). I realize this is kind of a douchebag move but my reason has always been because it allows me to avoid eye contact with people. For a long time I've walked around with this general attitude that when people are just being people and interacting with me (e.g., making small talk, smiling at me, nodding, etc.) somehow they are imposing upon me. I realize this is a pretty crummy attitude to have. So today when I went to the airport I put my shades on in the taxi (it was sunny, yea!!) but I took some time to be nice to my cabbie (another thing I don't usually do) by the way, he was a lovely man. And when I got in the airport I took my shades off. I looked up. I didn't hide my face or look to the ground, I looked - really looked - at people. I nodded, I smiled, I noticed things. You know what? It wasn't so bad. In fact, I'm vowing to take the shades off for good indoors.

2. You are not invincible nor are you the center of the universe. People are not thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about you. Realize it's a good thing.

3. Talk to the lady at the newstand. Or at the taxi stand or in the coffee line, etc. Usually I stand in line or go through daily transactions without looking at who is helping me or who is around me. I actually try to ignore people. Again, I realize this is a pretty crappy way to go about your day. This week I chatted with the lady in the taxi queue with me - guess what? She was hilarious and she paid me two compliments. Score. I also talked to the lady who checked me out at the Hudson News in the airport today. I could feel her looking at me as I walked around the store and of course, my initial cynical inner voice kicked in "alright, what's her problem?" I hit the reset button in my head "you are not the center of the universe, she is probably not looking or thinking about you." When I went up to check out she said "you look like Summer!" I started laughing, "I do?" "Yes, your hair, you look like you're ready for Summer!" We went on to talk about the Obama's and how I would make a great first lady one day. It was a pretty awesome conversation. I also made small talk with the guy at the coffee shop in the hotel this week while we waited in the post lunch, coffee rush. He was extremely interesting. A fellow Sociology major, an ex corporate lawyer and now working for Ferrari - just a cool guy to get to know. Glad I gave him ten minutes of my time.

4. Don't be too cool for school, pass along PSA's and meaningful messages. We're all inundated with philanthropic email chains, sad video posts, etc., etc. Usually I delete this stuff ASAP and/or tune out immediately. It's not my bag. This week AT&T spoke at my company's conference and hammered home their "It Can Wait" anti-texting and driving campaign. I was floored, in tears and entirely moved. I didn't stop there. I took their pledge to stop texting and driving and I passed along the message. Some good people even reposted it. One good deed gets passed along just like that.

5. Tip your waitress well and write her a note when she's doing a good job. When I flew out Saturday night to Chicago I decided I was going to go for the biggest indulgence I could find: a Panini's sandwich in the airport with an ice cold beer. It was amazing. My waitress was swamped. She was helping the entire half of the restaurant on her own and she was getting bombarded by pissed off patrons who were in a hurry to get to their gate. It seemed everyone was riding her about needing their food to go now that it took so long and just taking their anger out on her. You know what she did? Smiled, nodded at everyone and hauled ass to try and make it all happen. I had plenty of time so I just watched and ate my heart attack on a plate with joy. When she brought my tab over I tipped her well and wrote her a note on the bill: "You are doing an awesome job and keeping a smile on your face even though it's CRAZY in here and you seem to be responsible for a lot. I appreciated your attitude and service, thanks so much, keep it up!" To this day I have a card a random person wrote to me in my first job, framed in my house. It can mean so very much to have a stranger take time out of their day and recognize another human being for doing the right thing and working hard.

6. SLOW DOWN. The biggest thing I've realized this week with all of these minor behavioral changes is that I stopped thinking my time was so valuable I couldn't be bothered and took some time to just recognize the world and the people in it, around me. That's it. I just stopped being so self-focused and in my own head and looked around a bit, looked at people's faces (not their shoes). It's not so hard. I think I'll keep it up :)

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