Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Night on the Town

My number one priority right now is finishing going over the copy edited version of You Better Knot Die since my editor needs it back by Tuesday. I’d finished the portion I planned to do today and my husband and I made an outing out of going to Walmart.

I guess it doesn’t make us sound like we have a lot going on if going to Walmart can be considered any outing, but I think things are what you make of them. The one we go to is in an area called Porter Ranch that is all the way across the Valley and up on plateau against the the Santa Susanna Mountains. To me, it feels like a trip somewhere. I can look across the Valley and see the twinkling lights of Tarzana.

It was more about going somewhere than about shopping. I wanted to get some flowers to take the place of the petunias that have already died. I don’t know why, but I have poor luck growing petunias, which is too bad because I love their color and fragrance. Even with my not so good luck, I wanted to try again with some more plants. Maybe if I give them some special dirt they’ll thrive. My vegetable garden is beginning to take off. I already got the first tomato and put it in last night’s salad. It was an heirloom variety and had a different texture than a regular tomato. It was also a much brighter red, maybe blood red. There’s another one ready for picking.

We made a real evening of it and stopped at our favorite deli for supper first. I had a nice surprise there. I ran into somebody I know who I hadn’t seen in awhile and she told me she was reading her third book of mine.

Walmart is never quiet and on Friday night when people just got paid, it’s extra busy. Lots of kids trying out bicycles and people buying the latest DVD release to make an at home movie night. It was late when we got there and the plant area was always empty except for a friendly guy watching people as they exited that way to make sure they paid for their merchandise.

We did our shopping and got in line to checkout. I got the petunias, and some marigolds, too. I love the way they smell. And some white flower with pink center vincas because they are tough as nails and seem to thrive no matter what. The checkers are always pleasant, particularly if you consider that they face an endless line of people buying beach balls, cases of soda, electric drills and countless other things. This time after I’d given my credit card and done all the button pushing and signing, I noticed the woman’s badge said her name was Dolores. I usually just say thank you at the end, but this time I said thank you, Dolores. The woman’s head snapped up and her eyes came into focus. First, no doubt wondering if she knew me. Once she realized she didn’t, she kept the trace of a smile. It was clear that she felt noticed. And for me – she wasn’t just somebody with a blue tunic watching endless boxes of cereal and cans of paint go by. She was a person with a whole life story that had nothing to do with being a checker. All because I called her by name.

So, then I wondered why don’t I do this all of the time. The best I could come up with was that it’s breaking some kind of wall of privacy. It’s moving out of my own little anonymous bubble and making contact. But it made me feel good and it seemed to make her feel good. I’m definitely going to try to keep personalizing the thank yous when I go places even if it means stepping outside my comfort zone.

When you’re at the grocery store or at a restaurant, do you insert the person who helps you’s name when you thank them? Do you think it makes a difference?


Linda O. Johnston said...

Betty, I generally only refer to a sales associate by name when I go to a place often and get to know the person--like weekend breakfasts at Panera. Even then, I'm more likely to conduct friendly chatter than use names. Maybe I should improve that! I do understand how you needed to make your visit to WalMart an outing since there are so few in our area...

Camille Minichino said...

Actually, I hate when they call me by name as they're reading my check or charge card! I don't want my name blasted out in public (unless it's to say, aren't you the famous author? LOL)
When checkers ask "How are you?" and it seems genuine, like Linda's case at Panera, it's fine, but if it's just form, I'd rather rush through the line to "real" friends outside!

Camille Minichino said...

I should say that thanks to your engaging writing, Betty, you made a trip to Walmart sound interesting!

Betty Hechtman said...

Isn't it interesting how we don't add people's names, Linda. I have to admit that when a clerk adds my name at the end of a transaction it seems artificial.

Funny thing about the name thing, Camille. On a past trip to Chicago, I was getting some food to go at a small local restaurant. The guy who waited on me was obviously a University of Chicago student. And right about that time someone whose last name was like mine, but might have been spelled diffrently had just won a Nobel prize and was from the U of C. The student clerk didn't say anything, but it was the way he responded when I gave my name for my order. I thought he was going to bow.

Yes, I can make an event out of anything.