I have the honor of knowing an incredibly talented writer, Erica Landis, whose work has been featured on popular websites, blogs, and her own side-splitting Facebook page. She also happens to be a sales associate at a liquor store. Her fierce and earnest observations of customers are entertaining at the least. But when it comes to high quality interactions, she recently painted a meaningful and deeply personal picture of these interactions during the stress of COVID-19. I hope it motivates us to take a minute and ask someone, "How are you, really?" Here, I'm sharing her words:
The view into the world from the cashier's side of a liquor store is limiting yet expansive. It's like looking into a fishbowl to see endless rolling hills.
Now let's throw in a pandemic, shall we?
As I stood at the register last night bagging endless bottles of wine and vodka and beer and scotch, I'd fake laugh along with all the people panicked about being quarantined with their children. And when the questions of "Will you close? You can't close??!!" started coming and my inner emotionally spent bee-otch came out, I stopped laughing along with them and just turned stoned face.
But two interactions stood out in the endless line of customers. One was a young girl and her boyfriend, no more than thirty years old. She asked me how I was doing and she meant it. There was something about her tone that almost made me cry. It was the sincerity.
And while she didn't know that I have a father and mother-in-law in their upper 80's that I'm worried about, and two people I love that are currently going through chemotherapy, and a seven year old who loves school and going on adventures, and taking swimming lessons at the YMCA and getting gumballs at the diner and a husband that works retail and has no option of work-from-home...she saw me standing there at the cash register and asked how I was doing.
And I told her. She asked if there was anything she could for me. To make my day better...I stood there stumped. I told her she already did it. By simply SEEING me.
A few hours later, when the steady stream slowed and my shouts of "NEXT IN LINE!" got quieter and more spaced out, I asked a young man how he was doing. And I meant it. His answer was one I hadn't heard yet. "I've been better," he said.
I asked what he did for a living. He is a guitar teacher. He does home instruction. And his business has taken a hit. He found another job temporarily and he's hoping that lasts for a bit. We talked about hiding the fearful vibes from kids. He was shaken by this disruption in life, as we all are.
We talked for about five minutes until a customer came up with a cart overflowing with liquor. We wished each other luck and I grabbed my scan gun for the next giant cart of alcohol.
Halfway through the giant cart, the guitar teacher reappeared and said "Thanks for talking," and handed me his business card. "If I know anyone looking for music lessons..."
"Thanks for talking." Such a simple statement. But powerful and sincere.
This is all new. This is scary as hell. I'm surrounded with people who do their best to keep their sense of humor. No matter how unfunny this all is.
Thanks for talking.