The world teaches us to be cynical.
I was thinking this the other day as I exited Best Buy and began walking past the Tenleytown Metro entrance to cross the street. I looked up to see two young adult girls in matching shirts and just as I realized they were going to try to sell me something – bam – one of them made eye contact with me and there’s no going back now. She advanced, starting to say something to me, and I hurriedly had to mumble “…uh, no, thanks” and pick up my pace.
I scolded myself for looking up and giving them the opportunity to talk to me. If I hadn’t looked up, maybe I wouldn’t have even had to deal with them.
But wait a second…
What am I saying?!
Why was I dreading a conversation with another person? I had no idea what she was going to say to me. Maybe that would have been a really fruitful exchange. Why did I reject her so coldly?
The world has conditioned us to avoid and reject salespeople, yet we patiently wait through 4 or 5 commercial breaks during our favorite shows. Yeah, they probably want something from us, but they’re still people. We do the same thing with the homeless and needy that are everywhere. We pass them on the street. No, I don’t have money for you. We pass them in our neighborhoods. No, I don’t have time for you. We forget about them when we buy that new, expensive gadget. Yeah, this is more important than you.
I just don’t like it when people want something from me, especially if they have nothing to give. But what’s worse, I’m ashamed that I was so unkind to that lady. I’m ashamed, I know it’s wrong, and I keep on doing it again and again.
Earlier that same day, I’d had another run in with a salesperson. I had to go to the photo store to buy more matting board for my final photography project. The sales guy got a pack and asked how many I need. I told him just six, and he started to try to open the shrink wrap that held the pack of ten boards. After trying for about three seconds, he said, “Are you sure you don’t just want the whole pack?” with a sheepish smile.
Oh, why not make this guy’s day a little easier and not have to sound rude? “Sure, ok, whatever,” I exhaled. I had succumbed to the salesman.
“You’ll need them,” he replied confidently. Too confidently.
Yeah, right. Scolding myself again, I began to try to think of other craftsy things that might get rid of them in the future.
I left with my boards and a receipt for $8 more than I had intended to spend. I dropped them in my dorm room and didn’t really think much about them until last night.
At about 1:00 AM, I got an email from one of the girls in my Wednesday night photography class. She apologized for bothering me and asked if I had an extra piece of mat board she could buy.
I replied almost immediately with this:
“Hey girl! Don’t even worry about it. The guy at the photo store talked me into buying the bigger pack yesterday. I’m terrible at saying no. You don’t have to buy it from me!”
As my computer made the whoosh sound it makes when I send an email, a though came suddenly. He’d said that I’d need them.
Of course I know the tattooed sales guy at Embassy Camera isn’t some prophet who knew she was going to email me, but it’s still funny, don’t you think?
You never know what can come of sharing with someone and just hearing them out, no matter what it is they have to say. You don’t necessarily have to buy it, just listening really is enough. But maybe try to really consider what they have to say, even if they’re an overconfident salesman. After all… not many people wanted to listen to those pesky Biblical tax collectors either, and sometimes they did really awesome things!
I don’t know why I gave into buying those extra boards, but I’m sure glad I did. I just hope I can be reminded of this the next time I come upon someone reaching out to me and can respond with better than what the world has taught me.