I ran into a platitude-buster at Salem’s LifeSource Natural Foods today. A new check-out girl started to ring up my items.
She said, “Are you having a nice day?” I was familiar with grocery store etiquette, so responded with my expected line. “Yes, I am. Hope you are too.” That’s where the scripted exchange of pleasantries usually ends.
But she surprised me. She stopped what she was doing, looked me in the eye, and asked, “What’s made it a nice day?”
Nice! Yet also mildly anxiety-producing. I needed to come up with an answer.
Pretty quick, since there were other people waiting behind me. I’d just proclaimed that I was having a nice day. Could I be convicted of check out line perjury if I stood there speechless until a VISA receipt was handed to me?
I thought back to my most recent nice moment.
“This morning my wife told me that I’d probably forgotten to get her a new Self Realization Fellowship appointment calendar for Christmas. Oops. She was right. But I walked in and got the last one that you had. What a relief!”
I continued on a bit, blathering about guardian angels who look over procrastinators. I must have felt the need to say something vaguely Christianish, given the time of year. But that was extra.
The real gift the girl gave me was making me answer to “What’s made it a nice day?”
For one thing, it was nice to have someone inject a dose of freshness into the usual “Are you having a nice day?” back and forth. At Fred Meyer, the traditional grocery store that I frequent, I’m often tempted to reply with a “Sure, aside from being diagnosed with a malignant brain cancer and having my dog die. How are you doing?”
But so far I haven’t gotten up the guts. The LifeSource girl had a much better approach to bringing some genuine (and non-ironic) human connection into the minute we spent together. And she got me to thinking what makes for a nice day.
Nice moments. A day, or a lifetime, is made up of moments. Those infinitesimally brief, yet also eternally long, instants of awareness.
Looking up and down the bookshelves at the store. Not seeing any calendars at all. Ah, they have some. Good. But now…where’s the SRF calendar? Two days before Christmas, they’re probably all gone. Geez, how could I forget? Wait. Isn’t that…yes, one left!
That moment of yes, it was nice. As was taking Serena to the dog park earlier and, after some interminable sniffing of grass and trees, seeing her finally join a compatible canine play group.
Both of those moments were undeniably real. Here and now. I can’t imagine telling the girl, “What was nice today was that I hoped for…” Or prayed for… Or believed in… Or had faith in…
Nice days aren’t in the future. Neither are they in some distant heaven. Nice days may include some hoping, praying, believing, and faithing, but what makes them nice isn’t the unseen, unknown, unintelligible whatever-it-is that these abstract activities are directed toward.
A hypothetical God or ultimate reality doesn’t make for a nice day. Real nice moments make for a nice day. There’s no need to bring God into them. The guardian angels I brought into my check-out line conversation were totally extraneous.
I didn’t sense them at all. Just the Self-Realization Calendar. And my mind’s so-nice yes!
I found your blog and finally bookmarked it properly. Very nice.
Posted by: zhoen | December 25, 2006 at 05:29 AM
Brian, you know you are mortal, as millions of others. How is it then possible to have a nice day with the axe hovering to cut off your head? These frills and froths of nice days are for the immortal ones.
Am in Cairns, Aust. with partner. Hot as hades could be if it existed.
I look forward to your writings for 2007
so A HAPPY AND GOOD WRITING NEW YEAR FOR YOU.
Posted by: elizabeth wagner | December 25, 2006 at 07:16 PM
Nice. Not great. Not crummy. Nice.
So I assume you would know exquisite.
Which luckily for you does not include flirting with cashiers, or a calendar would come up way short.
Posted by: benandante | December 26, 2006 at 04:28 PM