Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tell me about it

My friend Kiki doesn't like to go shopping with me. It's not just because I lack her stamina at the mall. It's because I spend too much time in the check-out lines.

Let me give you an example.

Kiki and I will make a quick stop at Target, toss a few things into our baskets, and join the line to check out. Kiki will put her things on the conveyer belt. The clerk will say, "$32.76." Kiki will pay her money and collect her bags, and then my goods will make their way down the conveyer belt to the clerk.

"Oh," the clerk will say, scanning my first item. "Tampons. I used to use this kind of tampon."

"Really?" I'll say.

"Yes," the clerk will reply, "Before I had my hysterectomy."

"Oh," I'll say.

"It was five years ago," the clerk will say. "I'm okay with it now, but at the time...well, I really wanted to have another baby."

"That must have been hard," I'll say.

"I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed," she'll reply. "Thank God for Paxil, though, you know what I mean?"

And it will escalate from there.

I'm not sure what it is about me that brings this out in people, but it's a very real phenomenon. I say "Good morning," and strangers start to disclose. This is how I know that the woman who bagged my groceries took the job temporarily because she'd suddenly become unemployed, that she thought it would only be for the holidays, that she was dismayed to still be bagging in February, and that she has still not gotten the hang of opening the plastic bags. It's how I know that the night manager of Dunkin' Donuts really prefers the coffee at Starbucks. It's how I know that the woman at the pizza shop couldn't shake the feeling that something odd was going on that morning at the gas station mini mart when a young woman ran from the store into an idling car and sped away at top speed. It's how I know what kind of birth control the woman at the hair salon uses - and what effect it's had on her cycle. It's how I spent 45 minutes in the produce section of the grocery store talking to a woman (and then her husband, whom she'd called over from the bakery) about her grandson, who may be autistic, but whose parents may be in denial.

I think I might just have one of those faces - generic enough that I'm vaguely reminiscent of someone you know, making me familiar enough to put you at ease. People I meet often tell me that I am "just like" such-and-such person they know, or ask me if I'm related to so-and-so, or wonder if we've met at the blahdy-blah place I've never heard of.

As quirks go, though, it's a nice one to have. I enjoy hearing about people's lives and, it seems, they are pleased that someone is willing to listen to them. It does make for extraordinarily long sessions at the check-out counter, though.

Just ask my friend Kiki.


VTBudFan said...

I am cracking up!

I am the same way. My husband used to try to coach me under his breath, as we walked down the street toward a visibly psychiatrically-disabled person, "Don't make eye contact, don't make eye contact..." but invariably I would, and consequently that person would want to talk to me. (I finally started working at the local group home; then at least I knew their names!)

And now that I have this Passion Parties gig, you can just imagine all the conversations I am having!


Niksmom said...

ROFL! You could be my mother! Well, okay, except for the whole age thing and all. This happens to her all the time, too. ANd yet, she —like you— doesn't seem to mind it too much. Poor Kiki! LOL

Drama Mama said...

I totally relate. Only it's not disclosure; it's laughter.

Apparently, I am hilarious-looking. Even when I'm buying tampons.

Why do I make people laugh? Is it the short, squatty body? The big nose?

The constant goofy expression? I dunno. But I'm with you; it's not a bad quirk to have.

Daisy said...

:) I do that, too! My daughter always comments afterwards that I could avoid these long conversations, really. I don't see myself as particularly social; there must be just certain people who connect with me, and I with them. We should go shopping together!

kristina said...

It's just that NOS something --- sometimes this happens to me too. Maybe because I say "thank you" and "hope you have a good rest of the day" or a general overall appearance of non-threatening-ness, mom-ness...... My husband also falls into it: He often says "how you doin' " and then next thing you know....

Charlie is very patient with us.

Unknown said...

Another me too! I have found some wonderful connections in the disabilities world because of it, and found myself being a resource specialist to others. It got so bad that when I quit my job in the mental health system, I had personal business cards made up to hand out to people so they could follow up.

My boyfriend calls it my instant networking ability!

Ange said...

I don't know what it is, but I sure don't have it. But my husband does. I try. But nothing. I say "Good morning. It sure is cold outside." and nothing. Hubby can say "Hi." and it's the start of a conversation. It's not natural for me, and I've been trying to be more "social" but I think people KNOW. I am not one of them. ;)

Maddy said...

Maybe you be brave, post your photograph and then we can decide for ourselves!

Bea said...

I do NOT have that trait: I have a face that tells people, "Go away. Do not confide in this cold-hearted person." But I know people who have this trait, and I've never figured out where it actually comes from. Does it have to do with the shape of the eyebrows, do you think?

Anonymous said...

I call it a superpower-a "naturally-occuring vivacity" that calls to people to express, confide, and divulge their thoughts, feelings and innermost secrets. Er, I have it too! It is both a boon and a blessing.

Were we zapped by gamma rays? Or bitten by radioactive spiders? My sons says my superhero name should be ConfiderWoman! Kids!

You are not alone, Mom-NOS! Just imagine how it would be were all of us superpowered moms were to get together- we would tilt the world on its axis!

KAL said...

I think that's a gift, actually, even if it does slow you down in the checkout lane :)

graceunderautism said...

(I tried to comment earlier today but blogger kept kicking me out)

I am the "other person." The one who tells strangers and people I've just met all sorts of weird and personal things. I figure I come by it honestly since when I was preggo with J, I heard rumors that my mom was telling every person she came in contact with especially stores that she was going to be a grandma and doing a silly happy dance.
At least I've never danced for strangers.

Did I mention I also over-share in nblog comments as well? :)

Anonymous said...

I am like that too, and I know I'm generic enough looking (mousy brown hair, blue eyes, glasses) that everyone has a cousin, sister, aunt, friend that looks just like me.

It has helped greatly with finding support and helping others thru the adventure of autism though, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

In high school I was told that I received unbelievable challenges so that once I made my way thru them I could help the next person. This has proved amazingly true throughout my life.

So keep smiling and keep talking! Your knowledge is saving the next person's sanity! :)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should consider a career change; bartender.

I end up in conversations all the time. And if there is a little person with their folks, I love to chat and hear their stories. It used to drive the kids nuts, but now, Daughter does it all the time. Ah, the apple.....

Robin said...

OMG, my best friend has total strangers sharing completely intimate details. It blows me away.

I have the face and body language that says, I am an engineer, I know nothing of your people.

Anonymous said...

so funny! i've had that from time to time and i, apparently, look like every one else on the planet because perfect strangers are always OH HI HOW ARE YOU??? as they come in for the hug and then stammer that i look just like so and so.

dmdm said...

LOL! Sometimes I think there's a neon sign on my forehead that says 'flibbertygibbets welcome'! I've come to believe it's a good karma thing. Thanks for sharing! LOL

Unknown said...

Hilarious. I think we may be separated at birth on this one. I was at a business meeting the other day (at someone's house, oddly). and at the end my "good girl" kicked in and I said, "Nice to have met you. You have a lovely house."

Wrong move. Forty-five minutes later...I thought my colleague was going to kill me.

So maybe we should shop together? Or just be quarantined?

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I'm like that TOO! (You, not Kiki.) A blessing? A curse? A toss up?

Anonymous said...

I used to be just like that in my thirties and forties, but consciously changed when I hit fifty. Rather than making people feel free to talk and to share I look back and feel that it was control on my part as well as condescending at times. Kind of like the person who picks up the check decides when the meal is over. Now I do my business and move on, still pleasant (I hope) but detached.

Harvest Moon Farm said...

Wow! I find it very reassuring to know that I'm not the only one!

I'm guessing you're right about the familiarity -- I look like someone everyone knows as well. In fact, I get a lot of double takes and then "you're going to think this is a weird question, but do you have a sister in...." (fill in the blank with practically any location world wide where they met some woman who is apparently my long lost twin). I always laugh (genuinely) and say "I don't think it's a weird question, because I get it all the time!" and then this perfect stranger proceeds to spill their guts to me. It happens daily -- sometimes several times a day.

And I agree. 'Tis a good thing. Makes me feel connected, even in a room full of strangers. And we could all use a bit more connection, couldm't we?

Joeymom said...

Welcome to the club. I have "Tell Me your Life Story" stamped across my forehead, too. I'm thinking about writing a book based on the stories and events I've experienced at grocery stores and such. I'm going to call it "Adventures in Grocery Shopping."

Anonymous said...

never meet my husband...he is just like you!

David said...

Nice post mom! Funny and revealing. Thanks :-)

Why is it not surprising that the commentators tend to also attract and listen to the "flibbertygibbets"?? Because we're all BLOGGERS maybe? We're all putting our little stories out there too, are we not?

MomNOS you DO have that special NOS something! Your welcoming eye contact, responsive smile, and easy laughter is always gonna make people want to tell you about what organs they're missing.

It might also be eyebrow shape, or nostalgia stimulated by a familiar looking face, but I tend to think it's from deeper within. Something ineffable. Anonymous comment was interesting, how (s)he was able to "turn it off" upon hitting the fifth decade, having come to think of it as something negative (if I'm interpreting the comment properly).

Angel The Alien said...

That sounds sort of cool! Although it could definitely get old when you're in a hurry. Maybe you're an angel in disguise and something about you just subconsciously makes people want to tell you everything!

Casdok said...

I have one of those faces to, which is great when you have the time!

Anonymous said...

When it's good, it's very good, when it's bad you feel like the "idiot magnet".

Eye contact is the crux of the whole thing, it's what allows or denies the interaction.
That's how I knew I wasn't cut out to live in New York. My sister used to make me face the door on the subway, where eye contact leads to trouble.

Eye contact on the street is de rigeur in New Orleans. You acknowledge everyone you pass on the street, and boy has that led to some facinating conversations. Like "is it uncomfortable wearing those assless chaps?" Sometimes your quest for knowledge yields illuminating and unexpected results. By the way wearing assless chaps makes you more aware of where you sit down - which is just as well, I guess. Lisa

David said...

I could never live in NYC either. Unless I wore mirror sunglasses all the time. Even at night.

Unknown said...

I'm one, too! My mom always said I was a "freak magnet" teehee. I take this a complete compliment. I love talking to new people. Everyone has story, no? I think people who are really open and open-minded attract others. I think just being kind brings this out in others, too. It is a wonderful trait to have. You are helping others in many ways I am SURE!

Angela said...

People obviously sense that you are a warm, sympathetic and caring person, why wouldn't they want to speak to you? Your ability to connect to people is truly a gift, even if it does take you forever to get out of a store.

Mama D said...

Oh, I SO relate to this! In my family, we call it "The Face." I actually wrote a post about it a while back. Very glad to hear that it is not just us! ;)