When I was a Freshman in college I took an excellent sociology class from one of the most respected criminal anthropologists in the field.
Not only was this man deeply interesting but he gave us some of the most enlightening and uncomfortable homework assignments to illustrate the expectation of societal norms in our day-to-day lives. For example, we had to answer the phone but instead of saying, “Hello?”, we had to say nothing. We had to get into a crowded elevator and then turn around and face everyone without saying a word. We had to walk up the escalator on the right side and stand still on the left.
It was super uncomfortable and super enlightening about just what happens when you go against the rules of society.
I am the worlds BEST gas station customer.
My consumption and love of Diet Coke is legendary and I am one of the few who can walk into several gas stations in a 10-mile radius and ask for “The Usual”. I have a great relationship with several people who work at these places.
Then there is this one guy.
I have been interacting with him for months.
He sticks out and it is for a reason.
THE GUY *NEVER* SAYS ANYTHING.
And I mean ANYTHING.
Not, “How can I help you?”, “What can I get for you?”, “Thank You”, or even a small “Hello” or “Bye”. I’ve even dropped things and been apologizing my head off and his expressionless face doesn’t even twitch as he picks up the dropped item and utterly ignores my apology. And I am the sort of person that suffers from intense pressure of speech. The LESS this man said to me, the more compelled I was to just sit there yakking my head off and sputtering at him.
But he never uttered a word.
It has been really weird.
I have wondered what this man is really like.
Does he ever talk to anyone? Does he ever smile? Or does he even get angry or frown for that matter?
Is his entire life just one expressionless and monotonous cycle?
Today, I was driving and running errands. It was really hot out and I had promised Aaron a little treat. (Which was really just an excuse to go and imbibe in The Dark Waters that is also known as Loralee’s Crack.) I had my adorable little Maltese, Lady, in the car with me. She was sitting on my lap looking like the cute little fluffy cotton ball that she is.
Mr. Deadpan was at the drive-thru window.
I asked for a soda.
He said nothing.
Then I added, “Could you also throw in some kind of kid’s sucker? I don’t care what kind.”
He silently picked up a bucket full of small DumDum suckers like they hand out at banks. I was delighted and told him thank you.
He ignored me.
He rang up my order and I signed the sales slip and gave it back to me.
Not a smile, not a word, not any indication that he was even speaking and interacting with another human.
I thought to myself, “Maybe this poor guy has no other choice but this and he just really, really hates his job.”
And then something happened.
He reached down on a shelf under the counter and unscrewed the lid to a big jar of jerky, held it out to me and he said something.
The traffic was really loud and I was confused at why this guy was shoving jerky at me.
“I’m so sorry, I couldn’t hear you…what did you say?”
“I said, ‘Would you like a treat for your little dog?’”
I was stunned and almost speechless.
“THANK you. That is one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen anyone do!”
And for just a moment, a brief moment, THAT MAN SMILED.
And I have rarely seen so much revealed in such a small moment in a person.
It doesn’t take much of a person to show kindness to a small child who is sitting in the back of a hot and stuffy car. Especially if it is establishment custom to give kids a treat.
But WHAT kind of kind and gentle person would THINK to take care of a stranger’s dog in that situation?
It was a very big learning moment for me.
I have often been surprised that people find me intimidating. That is the LAST thing in the world I feel I am or even want to be. I am the one that walks into a room and am hoping that someone, anyone, will come and talk with me. I want to get to know people, I really do. But, and this shocks many, I am actually a bit shy and intimidated.
Everyone uses the term “Judging a book by its cover” but I think that “CHOOSING a book by its cover” is a more powerful statement.
Because you never know what you will miss if you exclude a book of great wisdom, humor, or knowledge, simply because of the package it is wrapped in.