One of my favorite parts of any major city is spontaneous street music. I find it a great way to bring strangers together on the street as well as a great distraction as we’re rushing through with our busy lives.
I came across the jovial group pictured above as they were playing in front of one of Berklee College of Music buildings. The brass band livened up the crowd with their music and chants of “Our deepest desire is to be inspired.” I left the audience with a smile in having encountered this group.
I’ve just picked up the closing shift on Tuesday nights at Subway. It’s not exactly the most glamorous shift, and it can drag. Making sandwiches and cleaning up becomes routine, and the customer service aspect of the job can be easily forgotten.
As I was finishing up a customer’s order, he asked me, “How are you doing?” I replied that I was fine, and he questioned whether I was honest in my response. I told him that we’re strangers, so I probably wouldn’t have let him know if I was actually doing worse. His response was that now we were talking, we weren’t strangers anymore, and he asked me the question again. I smiled, and assured him that I was in fact doing fine.
My interaction with the customer made me briefly reflect on how easy it is to overlook a stranger, even when you’re directly interacting with him or her in customer service. We’re always caught up in our own troubles, not realizing that someone we pass on the street may be going through something difficult themselves. A few days ago I heard about Oprah’s “Just Say Hello” campaign, which intends to encourage people to say hello to strangers more often in order to fight loneliness. My initial reaction was that although the program had good intentions, who would actually invest time to acknowledge strangers more often? Yet my interaction with the customer today, and the observation of the barista at Caribous, proved me otherwise. That makes me smile.