Process Post #1: Talking to a Stranger

Grocery Store Interactions

My goal with this assignment was to talk to someone at the store I work since working is the only time I am out in public. 

To be honest, I don’t feel comfortable interacting with strangers in public during a pandemic, but with that said, I still interact with over a hundred people a week working as a cashier in a grocery store. However, these interactions are very trivial, almost all are not memorable. For the most part, I feel like a robot asking the same three questions: 

  1. “Hi, there! How are you?”
  2. “Would you like any bags”
  3. “Do you have a rewards card?”

And then I move on to the next person, and then the next and then the one after that for hours. Normally, customers avoid talking because they want to reduce the bacteria they’re inhaling and expelling, so they answer my questions with head nods. 

Wearing a mask makes it difficult to tell what facial expressions are made because literally half our face is covered. Sometimes I catch customers staring right at me with furrowed eyebrows to figure out my expression, I try to smile really hard to indicate that I’m actually a cheerful person but they can’t see it! To make matters worse, my voice gets more monotone further into my shift because I get tired of asking the same question in the same “I’m super happy to help you” voice, which can tick some people off. I guess my point here is that these factors make it really difficult to spark conversations with customers. This environment also makes it difficult to create a lasting impression, although my job is to just bag groceries and the customers are only here to purchase items, so I guess a conversation isn’t much expected here. 

The pandemic has made face-to-face interaction much more difficult, there’s always the discomfort and concern if the person near you has Covid-19. Even with a face mask and gloves on and plexiglass between me and a customer, their only goal is to get out of the store ASAP. I tried to compliment a customer’s hair, hoping it would be a great conversation starter but she simply smiled and left. I made several more attempts by asking if certain groceries were for dinner, or if someone was having a barbeque but most people ignored my comments, which was really discouraging. 

I will admit, my attempt to talk to a stranger was a complete failure. I didn’t really go out to try and talk to strangers but I tried to take advantage of my work environment to talk to random people. Creating a connection with a stranger during a pandemic isn’t very ideal. I still believe that people yearn for in-person interactions but many aren’t willing to sacrifice their safety to talk to a stranger. 

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