I don’t ask people “How are you?” – you mostly get back bullshit. I ask “What’s been a highlight of your day?” All day long, I ask most of my customers – unless I am tired, too depressed, too burned out from one customer after another, or if the order is really small. Very often they ask the question back of me and I get to share one of my highlights. Sometimes, something in the encounter is a highlight for both of us – that’s where magic happens. This is one of those encounters.
I asked, “What’s been a highlight of your day?” to a cute 30ish woman who later turned out to be a very accomplished potter. (Asheville is so loaded with talented people, artists, musicians – they turn up everywhere.) As so often in this job, she knew me, but I did not yet recognize her. For all I knew, she might have never before come through my line – but she had. She said,
“I was at Lowe’s this morning, having a nothing exchange with a cashier – and I thought about you. I thought how you would ask me what was a highlight of my day – and something real would happen.”
This took my breath away, made me feel like it’s all worth while – and got me even more committed to asking my question. I’ll never ask it all the time – and it would not be useful to do so. Sometimes customers who I don’t remember or recognize insert it themselves when I haven’t asked it: “The answer to your usual question is….” Or they’ll start the encounter by saying, “I’ve been thinking about how I would answer your question today….” But I want to not miss the chance to ask it – I want to feel into “Is this a time to ask it, even if I’m tired or overextended or depressed?”
I want to not miss a chance to make it real. What if this is a customer who at Lowe’s this morning was thinking about me?