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Juice Says Speak to People

February 12, 2013

glass of juice

We’ve lost the art of connecting to others. The simple hello to the random strangers we cross paths with on the street seems to be a thing of the past. How did this happen?

Is it because our lives have become so full of our own discontents we now find it normal to walk right past another’s humanity. Or has our ability to walk right past another’s humanity become the fuel for the rise of our discontents? A modern day which came first the chicken or the egg, if you will?

I can recall walking down the street as a small child, hand in hand with family elders who would say a cordial, “Hello. Good morning. Or Howya doin,” to every person we encountered. The greetings were short, pleasant and always returned in kind.

As a little girl I would wonder do we know these people? One day just as I was wondering, I got a gentle smack on the shoulder from my favorite older cousin “Juice” (a nickname he picked up in college for the way he’d devour an entire gallon of any kind of juice in two gulps after football practice) with the instruction to speak to people, as we passed by each stranger. Dumbfounded I’d respond with a what-cha-hit-me-for look I justified by telling my cousin, “I don’t know them?” He taught me by telling me it didn’t matter if I knew them or not – “you speak to people when you pass them on the street.” So I did. Nearly 50 years later, I still do.

Only now I notice it is not as common place as it was back then. Many people are startled by innocent hellos from unknown passersby, returning their own caught off guard hello at the very last minute. Many others are so entrenched in their own thoughts they don’t even hear the hello and walk right on by. A few even make direct eye contact and a conscious decision not to return a greeting.  What’s that about?

So I’ve spent the last few days experimenting with this. I’ve made it a point to speak to EVERYONE I pass in my walking travels and document any meaningful connections. So far here’s my favorite: Last night I waited inside a bus shelter for my bus home. It was a chilly late night. One woman was on her cell phone. She nodded to my hello, then immediately turned her back to me as if to say, lady I’m on the phone don’t try to make small talk with me OK! Two love birds were huddled kissy-face trying to keep warm. They smiled their hello to me and went right back to the googley eyes (ah love). One other man entered the shelter and said a hearty hello in return to mine.

I noticed the bus shelter was clad in orange from top to bottom as a full size ad for a popular orange juice brand. I didn’t realize it then but now it only makes sense that “Juice” would help me with my experiment when it was “Juice” who instilled the lesson in me to start. The shelter also had what looked like heat lamps in the ceiling  but no obvious way to turn them on to warm the breezy shelter. I read the ad; one of the walls said push here for a little Florida sun, with a small button below the print. I pushed the button and voila, the bright orange heat lamps warmed the bus shelter and low and behold everyone inside was my new best friend.

The man who gave me a hearty hello to begin with, became my best-best friend responding with a giant smile and a, “Hey look at that! What did you do?”

“Just pushed this little button.” I told him.

The love birds looked up at the lights and said to me, “Oh we have those in Boston!” They seemed thrilled until they realized the lights we not really the bus shelter warming lights like they have in Boston but were only in place as part of an orange juice campaign. They went back to their private huddle never saying another word to any of us.

The girl on her cell phone saw her bus approaching and ran out to get on it, but turned back to me with a smile, just before the doors closed.

My newfound best- best friend and I chatted until his bus came. Friendly small talk about the weather, how long it takes the bus to come, how clever the orange juice campaign is even if I had to push the button again every few seconds to keep the almost warm lights filling the space.

None of us will likely ever see one another again, but those few moments of connecting were sweet like the oversized glass of juice we waited inside. They were warming and disarming on a dark chilly night. We all let our guard down, if just for a few moments. My cousin would have been proud.

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