I sat nestled at my table at Panera in Orland Park, IL, grinding out emails and writing self-evaluations of presentations I had given. Jack, my 15-year-old, was training at a hockey rink down the street. I had about 60 min to bust through this stuff. Tired from the mediocre night’s sleep in the hotel, and experiencing dread as it related to this part of my job, I found myself wishing I was teaching a yoga class or giving a talk; both things I LOVE. On a scale of 1-10, I was hovering around a 5 for enthusiasm and excitement.
Buried in my laptop, with Jack’s USHL itinerary spread out next to me, I heard, “Oh look here! Another sales rep?” I looked up and in front of me was a “grandpa” about 5’ 5 ft tall, huge belly, coke bottle glasses, holding a cup of coffee and an apple fritter. Before I could answer or even be 100% sure he was shouting at me, he sat at the table next to me and asked, “Or are you a hockey mom?” equally as enthusiastically and accusatory. I smiled and said, “Yes, I’m here for hockey. Getting some work done while my son’s training. However I’m not a Sales Rep.”
He ignored everything except for the word hockey. “I hate watching hockey. It’s like watching paint dry,” he shared at a volume of 10 out of 10. He then went on to explain that his grandkids don’t play hockey, but they do that thing on stage where you move around to show tunes. He began to shuffle around my table. He appeared to be dancing! So I asked, “Are they dancers?” Bulls-eye. He likes dance but finds it hard to keep quiet during recitals. Shocking. He rattled off a couple other things which I can’t completely recall but found entertaining, and then dove into his fritter.
I re-engaged, returned more emails, finished my evals and found myself thinking more about this grandpa who shamelessly invited himself into my space. I LOVED IT! We need more of this! He wasn’t rude, judgmental, harassing, intrusive, or inappropriate. He was a breath of fresh air. He made me smile. He brought happiness to my tedious tasks and my excitement level shot up from 5 to a solid 9.
We have become a society that has a bad habit of no longer taking notice of the world around us. And when we do, we are too afraid we’ll offend if we engage. As we walk to our tables we are thinking about all the things we have to get done, and ignore what’s going on 2 feet away. We take out our phones, open our laptops, check for text messages, and completely check out of the life around us. The living, breathing life around us.
Grandpa noticed. He didn’t miss things like the fact that my laptop made me appear to be Sales Rep and my hockey literature suggested Hockey Mom. Being present. The little things we miss because, well because we miss them. And if we do catch them, we fear the reaction of the other person if we try to engage in friendly banter; so we don’t. In the good ole’ days that’s what people did at breakfast joints! They said hello, asked questions, laughed with strangers, talked about the weather, said what they felt without fear of an eye-roll. They had freedom of spirit.
One of the greatest contributors of happiness is engaging with others. Real life engaging where you get a real live reaction. He contributed to my happiness.
I packed up my belongings and stopped at his table. I shared with him that I speak to audiences all over the country about Happiness as a skill. I complimented him for taking the time to notice me, engage with me, make me laugh and told him we need more of “him.” I complimented his presence of mind and willingness to take a chance in “shouting at me” regardless of how I may react. I told him he made my morning and thanked him.
He paused and said something very close to this, “Presence of mind? Taking a chance? I’m not sure what you mean. What I do know is we are a country made up of people. People are our family, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our grandkids. You are a person young lady. We are meant to engage with people. I worry about you kids with your emails, texts, computers…You’re missing all the good stuff. All the real live people. Now go pick up that hockey player. Terrible sport….”
I smiled again and said- I’m going to blog about you. He replied, “What’s the difference between a blog and a tweet?” Not kidding. I laughed and said the answer would be meaningless to him. As I turned to leave he had one last request. He smiled and winked, “Be sure to tell your readers you met Lottery Joe this morning.”
Lottery Joe; it was very nice to meet you.