I took my small handful of items to the counter at the local pharmacy and set them down to check out. The clerk, a kid in his early 20’s (well… a kid to me), never looked up or acknowledged my existence before beginning to scan in my items. Never once peering through the drape of intentionally unkempt hair, he moved at an iceberg’s pace taking an enormous and audible sigh every few items. Though I feared he would drop to the floor from exhaustion at any second, he managed to ring up my last item before mumbling what I can only assume was my total.
Fearing that an actual interaction with this guy may require more energy than he had left in his body, I glanced at the screen for the damage and handed him some cash. With a pace that I can only describe as tortoise-like, he begrudgingly made change, struggled to tear the receipt and returned both to me without ever glancing north of the hard plastic counter in front of him.
“Thank you,” I said leaning a little closer as an almost verbal version of putting the mirror under his nose just to check if he’s breathing.
He tilted his head up just enough to shift the mop from in front of his eyes and volleyed back at me with a tone and enthusiasm that would make Steven Wright sound like Richard Simmons… “Have a day.”
“Have a day”
Not “Have a nice day”.
Not “Have a good day”.
Not even the basic, old-school Clerk 101 standby “Come again”.
“Have a day”
I paused for a beat or two, gathered my stuff, smiled and said to him, “It gets better, Buddy. You have a great day.”
A few years ago that simple little “Have a day” would have hit me one of three ways. I could have been completely oblivious to it. If it even registered I would have just assumed I heard him wrong and just went about my day in a clueless fog.
The second option would have been to return fire. An eye-roll for an eye-roll (Editor’s Note: Pretty sure that’s in The Bible). Might have been a simple sarcastic “Nice attitude”. Could have been a more snarky “What’s wrong, Morrissey, did you run out of black guy-liner?” Or I may have gone into full aggro “What’s your problem” mode.
Or, and this was probably the most likely option, I would have felt sorry for the kid. Maybe even assumed I did something wrong to wreck his day. I’ve had crappy jobs. I would have walked away thinking what a shame it was that the kid had to do something that he clearly hated. Poor guy has no passion in his life.
But all of those options were off the table for me that day. I was engaged and present. I knew that snark-on-snark wasn’t the right answer. But, most importantly, I realize better today where that kid is at. I don’t know his story and probably never will. What was clear to me was that, at least at that moment, there was no passion for what he was doing, but, where in the past I would have assumed before that this guy had a miserable life and hated the world, I know now that he may have a dozen things that he’s over-flowing with passion for – Customer Service at the corner store just isn’t one of them.
At those times in life where you’re doing something that you have absolutely zero enthusiasm for, “having a day” feels like the only real option.
I’ve been on his side of the counter – both literally and figuratively. I’m sure you have too. We’ve treated the day and the people that cross our path with the same “dead behind the eyes” stare. That clerk’s attitude didn’t mean that he hated me or the world… he just wasn’t doing something that he felt passionate about. I know what those shoes feel like, because I have a pair in my closet.
But I know today that it can and it does get better… and it starts with making change.
Find what you’re passionate about and chase it with reckless enthusiasm.
Then…. whether you say it or not… you’ll figure out how to have a nice day.