Not Shiny Enough

So the other day I’m going to buy some groceries. I’m in kind of a foul mood, I may as well be unshowered and in my pajamas. I try to smile and be friendly but I’m sure it’s obvious to the cashier than I’m doing doing so hot so he asks me “So while I get started on this bagging I have a question for you.” It took me off guard, so I was like, uh, what? “What makes you shine, you know, what makes you really light up?”

In that moment I had no idea. I didn’t have a single clue. I looked down at my groceries winding their way along the conveyer belt and said

“Um. Coffee.”

“Okay, what else?”

“Ice cream?”

At this point I could tell he was getting a little agitated because I was a complete moron. Then I remembered that human beings like amusement parks, so I said that.

“Amusement parks!”

I hate amusement parks. I don’t hate them, I guess. I just find I tap out my preferred list of things to do very quickly and then spend the rest of the time avoiding the roller coasters. But this got him stoked, so he asked me which amusement parks I liked.

“Oh, I like… the ones where… people are happy there?”

At this point I’d regressed to the vocabulary of a small child so I completely gave up (and so did he) and I went on my way.

I didn’t think about it again until yesterday when I was shopping for a rain jacket. Somehow I’ve managed to live in Oregon my entire life without ever buying a rain shell. I walked to all the various cold weather retail stores in Portland yesterday and finally found the jacket I wanted. It was mid-range, had a hood, and I could layer it with everything I own. I walked in to try it on one more time and one of the sales people walked over.

“I really think you should get it in blue or pink, because black is boring.”

They were pretty colors so I tried them on and did, indeed, think they were pretty. But the problem with buying something bright and colorful is that it won’t go with everything that you own. I was also on my way to a soccer game and wanted something neutral to wear over the team colors. Black just works for me. But it made me self-conscious.

“It was the predictable choice.”

I realized that pretty often, when I’m out, people interact with me in such a way that makes me feel like I need to be more receptive. More bright and cheery and girly and cute and happy and smiley and, really, I don’t suppose anyone would be too surprised if I broke out in song.

Really I just want to go to the grocery store and be courteous and then pull my black rain hood up and walk home without anyone giving me any grief about not being shiny enough.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. rushmorejudd says:

    “What really makes you light up?” is a tough question requiring some thought. Don’t feel bad about screwing it up. Maybe you are a little reluctant to be yourself and be honest – “I can’t handle a question like that this early. I’m terrible at quick banter. Etc.” Just be honest without being rude. Appreciate that is is difficult for most people to talk to strangers and appreciate the effort.


  2. Megan says:

    To if somebody smiles at me – I immediatly go into a receptive mood.
    I train my staff to greet guests with a smile – even if it hurts.
    You are immediately on one step higher than them and in a better negotiating position.


  3. anaraug says:

    I feel like both the sales rep and the bag boy were being pretty rude. It’s the kind of “everyone should feel exactly the same way I feel about my life about their life, every day!” thing. To borrow a John Green phrase, I feel these people are failing magnificently at imagining other people complexly. And your title makes me think of R.E.M., so that’s alright.


  4. Ferns says:

    This made me laugh, because ‘oh my god, piss off strange people!’

    I think I must have a pretty good ‘No… just NO’ face because mostly I get away with polite neutral exchanges when I am out and about in the world. And I live in a small town, so I think that’s quite a feat!



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