Bath & Body Works is a dangerous, dangerous place – for my wallet, at least. But today I think it was exactly where I needed to go.
I ventured into the store firmly telling myself that I was here solely for the hand soaps that were on sale – some for my mom and some for me to take back to school for my new apartment. That was it. No more lotions or shower gels or God forbid another buy-two-get-one-free deal on lip gloss. I had enough at home. That was my mantra.
A perky employee popped up from behind one of the pyramidal displays and asked how I was doing. As was my habit, I said, “Good, how about you?” We ended up chatting about how boring an empty store was and how excited she was to have a customer at last. When I told her what I was looking for, she led me to the hand soaps, where we exulted over our mutual love of apple smells and fresh scents. As other customers drifted in, the salesgirl bounced back and forth between all of us, asking me how my selection was going (it’s surprisingly difficult to choose 7 flavors of hand soap) and generally being friendly.
Of course, I realize this was her job. She was no doubt chosen for her ability to converse easily with customers and make them feel welcomed. But it wasn’t that – laughing over my addiction to lip gloss and picking out a car freshener in addition to the soaps (I am weak, don’t judge me) was typical. It wasn’t her sunny demeanor or ready smile, either.
It was something she said while ringing up my order.
It came up somehow that I would be studying abroad for a month this summer (remember the Exciting Thing?) in England. She told me, “Oh, you’ll fit right in – you look like a stylish English girl already!” I thanked her and found myself admitting, with a laugh, as if it were no big deal, that I’m somewhat apprehensive about the awkwardness of making new friends.
“You’ll be fine!” she cried. “You made a new friend right here!”
I chuckled and thanked her, heading out with my ridiculously heavy bag of good-smelling things, but she made a point that I felt the need to analyze in this blog.
See, I tease my parents, specifically my dad, all the time for their ability to “make friends” wherever they go. (Seriously – my dad can get our waitress to tell her life story in about two minutes.) On some level, I suppose I’m aware that I have learned/inherited this ability, since I often find myself finding something to chat about with the stranger next to me on the plane, etc. But I’ve also been rebuffed in such advances, I still think of myself as “shy” more than anything else. Why would someone who’s outgoing get the kind of nerves I do when faced with a new situation?!
But I’ve been overlooking an important part of the two-way interaction – the perky girl at B&BW was required by the social context to make a connection as well. I was not alone in making overtures of friendship; in fact, I made her job easier with my reciprocal enthusiasm. And the other Select Few participating in the Exciting Thing will also be looking for new friends among the group of strangers. It’s kind of like being a freshman all over again: we’re all in the same new-kid boat, which hadn’t really sunk in until this little encounter today.
Cosmic comfort is cool (and I got citrus soap too!).