Sunday, April 27, 2014

Can this really be New England?

I used to embarrass myself here all the time by talking to strangers who pretended they couldn’t hear me. New Englanders weren’t as friendly as the Californians I’d grown up with, and they frequently preferred to ignore me rather than speak with a stranger. It’s gotten much better, and I don’t think about that much now. But still, I experienced so much friendliness in a few hours this morning that I’m having a hard time believing it.

I started out at the post office, mailing a letter. A few years ago, postal workers considered the Beacon Hill post office the worst place to work in the Boston area. Everybody wanted to transfer out, and they didn’t try very hard to hide their displeasure from their customers. That’s changed too. The disgruntled employees got their transfers, Mary the Clown (really! She works children’s parties) started working there and everybody else seems pretty cheerful most of the time. This morning they acted outright jolly.

I went from the post office to the athletic club where I work out. Fay sat down next to me at the Life Fitness machines and started to chat. We love Fay. She’s a garrulous Irish lady who practically lives at the gym. She does yoga, aerobics, Zumba, weight lifting; pretty much everything.

When Fay and I parted ways, I walked over to the water cooler to refill my bottle. Four people sat nearby, cooling off after a couple hours of group workout classes. One of them looked over at me and remarked, “You look like you’re ready to take on the day.” I answered affirmatively and she introduced herself and her friends. Everybody appeared happy to be meeting a stranger.

The last detail, that made me want to write all of this down, happened in the elevator as I left, carrying a recovery smoothie. Another passenger in the elevator had a smoothie too, and she raised her glass to mine. We toasted and the third passenger joined our conversation with animation as we rode four floors to the lobby. Everybody is so outgoing! It amazes me how much my surroundings appear to have changed over the course of a few years. It’s wonderful, and I hope it’s like this for everybody.

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