Friday, January 1, 2016


A few nights a week I stop for groceries at a little market here in Eugene called the Red Barn.  I love connecting with people, and going to a store is a place where it can always happen.  There's a moment of forced togetherness there that feels like an opportunity.

Because I like connecting so much, I know most of the people who work at the Red Barn.  But there's one who is newer, and I still haven't broken the ice.  Today could be the day, though, I can feel it.  As I come to the counter she smiles and says hello and starts checking out my things.  A few times, I've said things like "how's the day treating you?" But she's only given polite answers.  I'm looking for that unguarded moment, that "I know you now" moment.

I'm trying to think of something to say when I reach into my coat pocket to look for change and my hand rests on a chocolate-covered Oreo cookie. Before I even know what I'm doing, the words are out of my mouth:

"You know what's so great?" I say, holding up the cookie in its neon pink foil wrapper.

"What's so great?" She says, and her smile is a little skeptical.

"When you put something really nice in your pocket and then you forget it's there until later."

And then, it's there.  The completely un-guarded, we-connected smile.  It's big and lazy and lopsided, and it tells me a little bit about what kind of person she is.  She says something about finding money in her pockets when she does laundry.  But it doesn't really matter what she says, because the smile was the thing.  It was the smile that marked the moment when I made a brand new connection. My guard came down too, and just for a moment there was no "otherness" between us.

I wonder what will happen next time.

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