Now, More Than Ever, People Need to Talk

Sherry McGuinn

So, let them.

I’ve always been a schmoozer. The type of individual who no doubt, can be annoying to others because I often strike up conversations with complete strangers.

Why? I wish I could tell you. A sort of nervous energy comes over me when I’m standing in line at a store, for example, and people are staring out the window, or at their shoes, or at nothing in particular and appear to be at a loss…for something.

So, I’ll make a comment about the lack of open checkout lanes, or the weather, or some other innocuous topic, and either the recipient of my well-meaning advances will be happy to engage, or not.

Believe me. I know when to shut up.

Schmoozing is not new to me, as, even as a precocious toddler, whenever my parents took me to a restaurant, I’d toddle around the tables and jabber at diners.

Obnoxious, I know.

In turn, I’ve always been the type of person who others feel they can talk to, and confide in. When I think about this, I have to laugh as many times in my life, I’ve been mistaken for a native New Yorker. Interpret that as you will. (No offense to my friends on the East Coast, as I’ve always rather enjoyed the assumption.)

But, this story isn’t about my engaging with other people but vice versa.

Yesterday, I was shopping at our local Aldi’s and waiting in line at the one checkout lane they have left. Yes, now, even that chain has gone the way of “self-checkout.”

Not being in a hurry — it wasn’t like I was on my “lunch break” — I didn’t mind waiting. There was an elderly couple in front of me, my age perhaps, or older. The woman reached over and placed the divider on the belt between our groceries.

Funny. I wonder if people look at me and think “elderly?”

I thanked her, and that was all it took for the woman to initiate a conversation. As her husband stood by the register, she walked over to me and said a few words under her breath that I couldn’t quite make out. In return, I made some inane comment about the weather and that was the end of that, or so I thought.

While we stood off to the side, bagging our goods, once again, she walked over to me and this time, I could hear her. She told me that she was with her “helper,” her husband, who wanted to accompany her on her shopping trip this day.

“Oh, that’s nice.” Again, I was stumped for an intelligent reply.

I could see her husband patiently waiting for his wife to return. He just stood by their cart. He wasn’t bagging; he just waited and watched his wife.

“He has dementia,” the woman told me. “Every time we go shopping, he has to comment on every single item.”

There was no rancor in her comment. In fact, it was tinged with a smidgen of humor. But, I could see the weariness on her face. She was tired, and rightly so, as anyone who is a caregiver for a loved one suffering from this cruel disease, understands.

I was struck by her sharing this with me. But I’m glad I was there for her. She needed someone to talk to and I listened.

I responded that I understood that she was dealing with a great deal and that I felt for her. What else can one say in that situation? She merely smiled and nodded her thanks. And then she rejoined her husband.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a protracted bout of depression, and this gave me much pause for thought. And further confirmation that we’re all, every one of us, dealing with something. Even if we keep it hidden.

It’s not that I feel sorry for myself. Rather, I am sorry for things I’ve either done or neglected to do in years past. Regrets. We all have them. What we don’t have are “do-overs.” We can only move forward and hope to hell we’ve learned from our screw-ups.

Maybe when I grow up, I’ll figure it out. But I learned something yesterday, at the grocery store, going through the mundane motions we all employ in order to survive. I learned that even the briefest encounters can be meaningful ones.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL

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