Friday, February 17, 2012

Smile.


Remember when you were a little kid, and some distant relative came to visit? Without exception, they’d pat you on the head and tell you how much you’d grown. Well, at least that’s how it seemed to me. And even though I was a pretty tall kid, I always felt like they were exaggerating wildly. Well, it turns out that being away for a while does make you see things more clearly – whether it’s a kid’s growth or people’s behaviour.
Some of you may have read this blog post called How to piss of a Dane, that has been making its way around the internet lately. I find it quite clever and entertaining, but what’s more important – most of this stuff is spot on! And, perhaps even more importantly, I’m not sure I would have been able to see that a year ago.
The other day, I left my house to go to Starbucks. No surprises there. On my way, I smiled at the sweet lady in the shop downstairs. I said hello to the guy, who seems like all he does is sit outside our local branch of Paul and drink coffee. I smiled, nodded and said hello to a whole bunch of other random people – some because I’d seen them before, others just because we did one of those little which-way-are-we-going-to-pass-each-other dances. When I arrived at Starbucks, I was greeted with a huge smile and a friendly »How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while! Your usual?« Granted, the middle and latter part of that greeting indicates that I really need to spend less money at Starbucks – especially because all the other baristas had seen me plenty in the previous days. Anyway, I got my Grande Soya Chai Tea Latte, and trotted homewards with a silly smile. Why? Because obviously there is no PIPA (yeah, you need to read that other blogpost) in London. Well, at least not in Angel. People talk to each other. They smile at each other’s dogs and kids. They are polite about queuing, whether it’s at the bus stop or in Sainsbury’s. And they don’t mind if you ask how they’re doing – even if it’s just a quick »Hiya, you alright?« (which seems to be the British version of that much-discussed American phrase). I like that. I find it charming, and it never fails to brighten my day.
At this point, I would like to clarify one thing: As some of you will know, I work from home. Which means my only colleague is my dog and he sleeps a lot. So during the course of a workday, I don’t talk to a whole lot of people, unless I have a meeting somewhere. However, I am not one of those freaks who divulge way too much personal information while paying for their gum. So the fact that I talk to a lot of people during my daily outings doesn’t have anything to do with me specifically. Just so we’re clear.
Also, I want to make sure you understand that this blog post is not about bashing all places that are not London or Angel. I realize that my way of seeing things is not the only way. I know that the man and the dog agree with me on this particular subject, but then again, they’re hopelessly biased. It all depends on which window you look at things from. As an example, my lovely Aussie friends tell me that the service in London blows compared to say, Sydney. To me, the service in London is mostly very good, sometimes just okay, but never downright shitty. It’s all a matter of which kind of glasses you’re wearing, and I’ll readily admit that mine may still be somewhat angelic and pinkish when it comes to my new ‘hood.
Anyway, I think my main point today is this: smiling at people is ridiculously good karma. Being around people who are rude and grumpy often makes me, well – rude and grumpy. On the other hand, being around polite people who smile, say hello and take a step back instead of just squeezing past you into the bus makes me do the exact same things. Which is why, on a daily basis, you’ll find me wandering the streets of Angel with a Starbucks cup in my hand and a smile on my face. 


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