Go Ahead, Make Somebody’s Day

It’s interesting how certain lines from movies stay with us. I’m sure many readers will quickly recognize the following pieces of dialogue. They may or may not be able to name the actors who spoke the words, but they’ll easily name the movies in which the words were spoken. And they’ll do it without batting an eye.

“Follow the yellow brick road.” “We ain’t got to show you no stinking badges.” “Show me the money.” “Go ahead, make somebody’s day.”

Wait! That last one wasn’t quite right. Any fan of Clint Eastwood would quickly recognize that I took poetic license with one of his most famous lines. Hopefully he’ll forgive me. In fact, if he reads this article, I’m sure he’ll forgive me.

Have you ever made somebody’s day? Have you ever told someone how nice she looked in a new outfit? Have you ever told someone how much you loved him? Have you ever told your wife or mother how delicious her fried chicken was? Have you ever told your husband or father how much you appreciate the little things he does around the house. I’d wager that even the most grouchy and nasty of us has said something nice to someone – even if it was done by mistake.

When was the last time someone said something nice to you? How did it make you feel? Sometimes a small compliment will stay with us for hours, if not weeks and months. It always feels good to have someone say something nice to us, or about us.

The trouble is, people don’t do it often enough. And they seldom do it to people they don’t know.

Let me share a secret with you. You don’t have to pay someone a compliment to make him or her feel better. Compliments are nice – especially if they are sincere – but not necessary to make somebody’s day. All you have to do is say or do something unexpected. (Make sure you have a smile on your face so they know you’re trying to be nice. Otherwise, they might think you’re just a little bit insane.)

For example, a while back I walked into a hair salon. I typically prefer a good old-fashioned men’s barbershop, but the guy who usually cut my hair was on vacation. So I decided to find out how they did things at a unisex establishment. They’re the ones that call themselves salons rather than shops. They’re also the ones that charge a bit more, but give you a shampoo whether you need it or not.

First off, they asked for my name. Obviously they had problems with the honor system employed in most good old-fashioned men’s barbershops. “Next” is a good enough signal for most men to decide whose turn it is.

As I began to respond, I realized that the young lady keeping track of things looked like she was having a bad day. Her hair looked okay to me, so it wasn’t a bad-hair day. Something else was troubling her.

Instead of simply giving her my name, I asked, “Do you sell haircuts here?”

This took her by surprise. She gave me the “Is this guy for real?” look and said, “Yes. Of course we do.”

I then said, “Good. I’d like one to go, please.”

That broke the ice. She forgot her problems for a while and gave me a warm smile. I then gave her my name. I could be wrong, but I believe she pushed me ahead of a couple people already on the list. That’s a strong possibility in a unisex establishment.

In a salon, women waiting to be served have a tendency to chat with one another and sometimes lose track of who came in when. In a good old-fashioned men’s barbershop, those waiting to hear “Next” silently read last year’s issues of Sports Illustrated while casually keeping an eye on who is coming and going.

The point of this illustration is that by allowing myself to be a bit silly, I was able to brighten the day of a young lady who otherwise would have continued to wallow in the dumps.

Another time I was checking out at a grocery store. My only purchase was a 12-pack of beer. At the time, cashiers under the age of 21 were not allowed to ring up alcohol sales. Whenever a customer came through a youngster’s line with beer or wine, the youngster would pick up the phone and announce a “Code 27” or some such words to signal for an adult to come to the register to complete the sale.

As the woman behind the counter began to ring up my 12-pack I asked, “Isn’t that a code 27?”

She responded with a wide grin and an, “Oh, Bless your heart!” She then told me that it was her 50th birthday and I had just made it very special for her.

In truth, her reaction made my day very special. I had no idea that my little attempt at humor would have such a profound effect.

To put all of this in perspective, think about your own typical day. Unless you’re retired and living a life of leisure, you get up every morning with the chickens. If you have young children, you spend the next hour getting them up and dressed, fed, and pushed out the door to catch the school bus. Or, perhaps you’re one of the people who don’t trust school bus drivers and insist on driving your precious bundles to school yourself – adding to the congestion and traffic that comes with the normal rush hour. In that case, you must also get yourself dressed – at least enough to look presentable to the other parents tying up traffic.

If you have a job, you must then join the rest of the masses oozing their way down GA 400. By the time you get to work you’re already longing for that next vacation. You no sooner get to your workstation when the phone starts to ring, or an impatient customer is complaining because you weren’t at the cash register when he or she thought you should have been there.

That reminds me. Just the other day a customer walked into a shop and told the person behind the counter that he had cost the customer $23.00 by not opening up 30 minutes sooner. The customer explained that he had to kill some time in another store.

Can you imagine such a thing? Oh, yes. The “angry” customer was none other than the author of this article.

The smile on my face told the merchant that I was teasing. His response was, “Well, I hope you saved enough money to spend some in here.” We both had a laugh and his day started a bit brighter. Mine would have started in a similar fashion, but I spent another $15.00 in his store and he simply took my money. One would think he would’ve given me a big discount for starting his day on a cheerful note. Maybe next time he will.

Anyone who works in retail will tell you it is often extremely difficult to keep smiling and being nice to customers. Face it; some of us can get downright nasty when we think the world should kiss our feet because we have money to spend.

And the nastiness doesn’t stop with retail workers. A wholesaler who is having trouble making a delivery can get an equal amount of grief from a retailer. And a waitress who has to serve lunch to people who have dealt with grumpy people all morning often feels the same wrath. Leave a pittance of a tip and you’ll quickly learn that anger and grumpiness can be highly contagious.

The moral of the story is that we have to deal with a variety of people every day. If we’re grumpy, the grumpiness will be passed on and eventually come back to haunt us – making us even more grumpy. However, if we all try to be nice to people – even when they are less than nice with us – we may discover that people are suddenly being very nice back. Just as the grumpiness grows as it is passed from person to person, niceness has the same result. You really ought to try it.

Go ahead. Make somebody’s day.


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