Archive for the ‘Hello’ Category

Service of Attacking the Blues by Chatting with Strangers

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

The day I shot this was the delivery man’s birthday.

I’ve made a conscious effort of saying nice things to select strangers on the street and other places to counteract the blues fomented by current political turmoil and strife. I’ve always remarked on adorable dogs—all of them are, even the ugly ones. Sometimes dog owners thank or smile and other times they walk on without comment. Maybe they didn’t hear me or were in a rush or they don’t speak English or are a dog walker and not invested in the pooch at the end of the leash.

I’ve discovered that speaking up cheers me. I try to make the gloomiest looking cashiers smile—if not laugh. It often works.

Warning in NYC: You must be prepared for no response or reaction.

Yesterday I said, “beautiful day,” to a young man who was unloading a bunch of packages from his truck to fill a giant container on wheels slated for delivery to apartment buildings. He replied with a brilliant smile saying, “It is! And it’s my birthday!” so I was able to wish him a happy one and we both parted delighted.

I took a photo of the two men at the bottom of the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

People holding the SLOW or STOP signs at construction sites often appreciate a smile or a “hi.” There’s a ton of building going on in these parts.

The city is crawling with tourists, many non-English speaking. Should you want to make most of them happy, if you see one of them taking a photo of the other in front of the clock at Grand Central or at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, for example, they’ll jump at the chance to have you snap a shot of both of them. The only time I was curtly refused was by an American. I didn’t think I looked intimidating.

I used to let it pass but I’ve become bolder when I see someone approach and I wait–and hold open the door and they neither nod nor thank. I speak up if they are teenagers or older. And if they don’t look scary, I say, “you’re welcome.” Then, under my breath, I wish them a crummy day.

Do you speak with strangers? Does a happy reaction cheer you up?

One of the many construction sites within easy walking distance of my apartment.

Service of “Hello” II

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Phone conversations may be on the wane but you never know when you’ll need to carry on a coherent one. The way things are trending, fewer and fewer Americans will know how to answer a business phone as naturally as locking the front door. It’s to their detriment.

Sue Shellenbarger, in her Wall Street Journal article, “What Children Learned from the Shared Family Phone,” addresses the subject. She wrote, “Nearly half of U.S. households no longer have landlines and instead rely on their cellphones, up from about 27% five years ago, the National Center for Health Statistics says. Among young adults ages 25 through 34, fewer than one-third have landlines. Even at homes with landlines, the phone rings mainly with telemarketers and poll-takers.”

Shellenberger quoted one parent describing her kids speaking with her parents: “It drives me bananas when I hear them on the phone saying, ‘Yup, yup, yup.'” [My guess is that many kids did that as long as there have been telephones and calls to grandma.]

The reporter pointed out other benefits of landlines: They work in a blackout and don’t need to be charged. And when you use one to call 911, the emergency operator will know where you are calling from.

Should anyone care about whether kids are taught to answer and speak on the phone? You may be thinking that thanks to technology, companies don’t need a person to do this, so why the fuss? Not everyone wants to depend, for example, on a site like, especially if they’ve ever been turned away by a hostess claiming she didn’t have a reservation, as happened to a pal who had invited me to dinner.

When they are older, children might be at a disadvantage if they are interviewed on the phone for a job. A friend’s daughter, who lived on the east coast, just got a great position in the west where she wanted to move. She was invited for an in person interview only after she aced a few telephone calls.

Some jobs involve interviewing others. What if you must cold call to earn a living or if you want to serve on a phone bank to collect funds for a charity or encourage fellow citizens to vote? While customer service jobs in this country are shrinking, there still are companies here that need people to help customers through tech and billing issues. Staff picks up the phone for small companies, from an auto body shop, restaurant, pharmacy or dry cleaner. Do such businesses have budgets for phone training?

Were you taught to answer the phone at your parent’s home at such a young age you don’t even remember when it happened? Do you think phone skills matter? Do employers still assume the ability to answer and speak on the phone is so basic that people arrive with the natural ability? Are there other skills that technology has made obsolete that might still come in handy?


Service of Hello

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

We once lived in a very nice apartment with a view of the Chrysler Building. It had a great kitchen and two large bathrooms but the door staff could be surly. We couldn’t wait to move from this rental [where, by the way, we were paying a fortune]. We’d leave or come home and few returned our “Hello” or “Good morning.” There were days I didn’t want to come home.

When I enter a taxi I say “hello,” or “hi,” and am often greeted by silence.  The driver might be foreign but he is working here. There’s one librarian who never responds to my greeting when I walk past her desk at the entrance. It happened again this Saturday. It’s not because she thinks people should be quiet in a library: In fact, she speaks at the top of her lungs when she deigns to address someone.  All the other librarians are responsive and pleasant. Her attitude rankles as she knows better.

So I was surprised when Emily Monaco made such a big deal about having to say “bonjour” in her Wall Street Journal article, “In France, Learning to Say ‘Bonjour’ a Lot.” She wondered why she was having trouble being accepted by her colleagues at her new job at a small media company in Paris. She was annoyed that the grin she used in the States didn’t hack it as a greeting in France where smiles, she wrote, are saved for close friends. A colleague told her she was expected to say “bonjour” to her officemates.

Her reaction struck me as whiney and naive, especially for a woman who claimed that she has lived in France for nine years. [You can hardly enter any place in France without being greeted this way.] Isn’t almost a decade enough time to learn the social ropes? Monaco wrote that having to say “bonjour” to all those she encountered every morning “seemed like a waste of time to me,” and explained that the custom “was rooted in that all-important French concept: égalité, equality.” She continued, “Modern France was envisioned as a country of equality; bonjour is an acknowledgment of your interlocutor, a nod to your coexistence. Omitting it isn’t just rude, it’s a refusal to see the other as an equal.”

Balderdash. Not to follow local custom is rude in France, rude in America, rude everywhere, period.

Most people like to be acknowledged, whether it’s Eric the security guard at the office who always says good morning and I always respond, or Luis the morning doorman at our apartment who always wishes me a good day and I wish him the same, or my husband who says good morning or hugs me when I return home at night.

I also think it’s important for a foreigner who wants to fit in–regardless of the country–to find out what basic greetings are expected, make them, stop complaining, criticizing or analyzing, or leave. And you?

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