BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

Open Your Eyes

Woman using her hands to mimic a pair of glasses

The quest to inject more happiness into my life is ongoing and ever-evolving.

Over the last little while, I’ve experimented with smiling at strangers, conversing on elevators and adjusting my handling of basic greetings. I’ve even sought joy in the most unlikely of places, from my handwriting to a clogged bathroom sink.

Now, I’m adding a new tactic to my repertoire:

Eye contact.

This morning I was at the grocery store, as I seem to be on many weekday mornings. There’s a store next to my office, which is almost too convenient. Instead of writing out a list so I get everything I need, I often just wander the aisles to see if there’s anything I want. Not exactly a model of efficiency.

On the flip side, I do get my shopping done before work, during what almost feels like found time, as opposed to cutting into my evening’s freedom.

As I was checking out, my focus was on what it’s always on in this situation — not being the cause of a backup.

I unloaded everything onto the conveyor belt as quickly as possible; I placed that plastic divider thing at the end of my items so the person behind me could unload theirs; and I stared a hole through the credit card device’s screen to ensure I removed my Visa at exactly the right moment — and not a second sooner or later.

Thankfully, I was successful in not screwing up the operation. And once my transaction was complete, and my (self-imposed) anxiety subsided, I looked up with relief.

And that’s when it happened:

While reaching for my receipt, my eyes locked with the cashier’s. I said, “Thank you”; her smile replied, “You’re welcome.”

It was the type of moment that stands out from the mundanity, that gives you pause and makes you take notice, because you know something out of the ordinary just happened.

And it’s the type of moment I too often miss, because I’m too socially awkward or too hurried to acknowledge/appreciate the world — and people — around me.

Despite my frequent store visits, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this particular cashier before. And if it weren’t for the tag on her shirt, I wouldn’t have known her name.

But for that split second, we enjoyed a connection — a connection that’s more accessible than I’d care to admit, if only I’d slow down and open my eyes to it.

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