I have a bit of a conundrum. My friend, Terry and I hang out a lot. We're the same age. And he's a lot like me when it comes to dealing with people, especially people we don't know, like those we deal with in our daily rounds (convenience stores, banks, etc.). He's outgoing and caring, lighthearted and friendly (sometimes overly so). He looks people right in the eye and speaks to them with respect, like they're human. He jokes with people like I do.
I greatly admire this about him.
In this fast-paced day and age, we tend to overlook and forego the little human niceties that make life on this planet pleasant. You see it at fast-food joints all the time: The person in front of you gets to the head of the line, and they begin barking out their order without even acknowledging the employee...the human on the other side of the counter. Those in the service industry take it for granted now. It has become customary...the norm.
But not for Terry and me! Before doing anything else, both of us always take the time to greet the person we are dealing with. A simple, ”Good morning!” We smile. We act like we care about them. Because we do. But Terry will take the time to talk (as in “extended conversation”) with service people even when there are other customers waiting behind him for their turn. This can sometimes be annoying, even for me, I'll admit. I'm, like, ”Come onnnnn...get his/her life story later. Let's eat our goddamn subs before they get cold!”
My conundrum is that Terry is often on the receiving end of some very bad vibes. He routinely comes across people who are having a truly bad day and are just in a foul mood – and they take it out on him. He often relates tales of encounters he's had with really nasty, angry people. He even went into a Chick-Fil-A one day and got a surly attitude from the little old lady taking his order! At a Chick-Fil-A!
Me, I never run into unhappy people. Never. People are always nice to me. Every interaction I have with people is always positive. I always walk away happy, a little richer for the experience. And I hope they do too. In fact, I cannot remember the last time someone was short or even curt with me, much less in an overall bad mood. I don't know what it is – am I just lucky?
On the other hand, Terry just seems to attract those who need an outlet for their anger or bitterness. They home in on him like they're guided by a military-grade radar targeting system. It's very strange. And it weighs on him, I can tell. In the moment he doesn't let it affect his mood, but afterward he'll say how much it bothered him.
When we're hanging out...having lunch someplace, say...I watch him, and watch how he interacts with others. And there is nothing that I can put my finger on that's different from how I do it...no obvious “triggers” or anything. So it's not like he's causing it.
But if someone is having a bad day, they'll find Terry. It is most perplexing.