Saturday, June 1, 2019

6.1 - Connections

Our mailman retired last week. His name was Kermit and he loved Manchester City Football Club. Kermit was about 5'8 with grey hair and he often wore shorts on his indoor delivery route in the skyway. He sounded like a guy who didn't yell or get angry very much. He's probably a fantastic grandfather if he has grandkids. If I'd catch him making a delivery to our bar association office, we'd chat for a few minutes about our respective English Premier League teams, and it was often a highlight of my day. We got a gift card for him and his wife to go out to a restaurant, and a thank-you note was hanging in our office last week. I'll miss him.

Our going-away gift for Kermit wasn't the same as what this neighborhood did, but the thought it is all the same. The whole thing is worth a read. (Bring tissues.)
I worry we'll lose things like this: moments of geniune gratitude and thankfulness for the people who do seemingly minor things in your life. We're obsessed with specialization, efficiency, and removing any sort of friction between you and an end product. Self-checkout lines remove the need for eye contact between you and a cashier. Restaurant delivery removes you from talking to a human being until the last second of exchange. Hell, even self-serve tap walls remove you from talking to a bartender about what beer is good. I'd be a hypocrite if I said these things are all bad. I'll use a self-checkout line if I only have two things and everyone else seems to be stocking up for the apocalypse. And we'll use Amazon Prime when we need toilet paper and we just don't feel like going to the store. Sometimes you just don't want to talk to people, I get it.

However, I'm worried that that's become the norm, rather than the exception to the rule. And removing those small relationships in our day has real consequences. We need a "network of low-stakes, casual friendships." And I don't have to remind you that loneliness is a public health epidemic. Seriously, just google "millennials lonely."

So what can we do about this? If you have something nice to say, say it. Compliment your cashier's glasses. Say how wonderful you love the produce at a farmer's market stand. Ask about the janitor's day. The place we're spending more and more of our time, online, is still mostly awful, so we should combat that offline.

Be polite. Be kind. Listen. And when you can, chat with your mailman.