How’s your day going?

“How’s your day going?”

I probably ask half a dozen people each day, from busboys to corner store cashiers. Most of the time, it comes as a big surprise. The more people they see, the bigger the surprise. When you’re in the morning rush at Starbucks, the barista expects a 6 second exchange. A flip of the script can really throw things off, but isn’t that what we want? To be kept on our toes? It feels good to throw a wrench in the machine.

I rarely ask any follow up questions, but I always listen and make a remark. I typically come prepared with my own answer, which forces me to think, how is my day going? Am I happy or energized, tired or annoyed? Did something happen that this person might want to hear? It’s surprising how often I have some tidbit of knowledge or good news to share.

I always smile when they realize what’s going on, it shows patience. Nearly everyone sighs a bit, takes a much deserved break from the monotony of serving customers. They might take a second to unload their stress onto my shoulders. Misery loves company. They might tell me it’s their birthday. All these people they’re helping just don’t seem to care.

Sometimes I get a discount. If I can’t make exact change, they might let it slide. Sometimes they put a little extra meat in my burrito. Not always, but sometimes. Once, I got to check a bag for free. I didn’t think it was possible.

Not surprisingly, this is one of the best parts of my day. Of my life, really. It’s usually hard to ask people questions, we’re all so different. Some people are rich, some poor. Some went to college, some tried, some couldn’t. Some people have parents and kids and friends. Some people are lonely. But everyone’s had a day. Everyone wants someone’s attention, even if it’s only for a moment.