Erin's Journals

Monday, January 16, 2023

Just a thought… We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. [Sherry Turkle]

You can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

You’ve probably heard by now, likely from radio or tv shows with nothing else to talk about dark and early today, that this is supposedly Blue Monday or the saddest day of the year because the weather is not great most places in our part of the world, the bills from the holidays are coming in and we’re not getting enough daylight to lift our spirits.

I call BS because it is BS. This all came about from a British travel company that started pushing the idea of Blue Monday so that people would – wait for it – book vacations.

So we’re going to do something super positive today. And I’m going to share with you the kind of story that’ll make your day. I haven’t done one in a while, and I don’t know why not.

So here’s a feel-good story I thought you’d like and I hope you haven’t heard it. In The Netherlands, Jumbo, a 700-store grocery chain, has opened a new checkout lane called a “Kletskassa” which translates to “Chat Checkout.” It’s so people who want to take their time and have a real human interaction – perhaps the only one of their day – can do so at these stores.

It’s not surprising that The Netherlands would come up with this idea; they already lead the world in fitness, thanks to the number of kilometres people cycle each year on the whole. So this shows they value mental health as well as physical health!

This was first tried in 2019 under a government program called “One Against Loneliness.” Now, four years later, many of us do feel isolated, either by choice or circumstance as we all recognize that Covid is not over by a long shot (for example, Jamie Lee Curtis has confirmed she has it and will be skipping the next several awards ceremonies and events to prevent others from catching it).

The point of the Chat Checkout is to give people, who would otherwise be rushed through to get to the next customer, the opportunity to talk, to make eye contact and just to be seen by someone.

When I told our 97-year-old friend Mira this the other day, her face lit up. She said it’s always like this in Sidney and, quite likely for her, it is; she is a friendly and engaging woman and I haven’t met many cashiers in our nearby small BC town who didn’t want to ask you why you liked some brand of ice cream bars, or what your plans were for the rest of the day. I’m not sure if it’s in the training here, in a town so full of seniors, but once you get used to it, it’s really quite nice.

And it just adds to the wisdom of a story that came through on the other day about how small talk – actually starting a conversation with someone in line or the produce department or a waiting room – can result in significant behavioural changes.

The Neighbourly Lab in the UK put up stickers on buses in the Hammersmith part of London saying “Who can say hello first?” It began when someone noticed only one in five people greeting the bus driver when they boarded. Apparently, early results are promising and it just points to the importance of us getting out of our own little worlds, looking up from our devices (not now, please) and engaging with others. The main reason we don’t, according to the story, is a fear of rejection.

To heck with them, I say. If they don’t know what they’re missing by not having a chat with you, that’s their loss. I was on a plane in November and the woman next to me started up a conversation. We ended up exchanging books. She gave me Jay Shetty’s Think Like a Monk, which she was travelling with at the time; later, I mailed her and her mom copies of Mourning Has Broken.

The woman? She turned out to be one of Bob Marley’s daughters-in-law and we watched videos of her super talented son Damian Marley on YouTube. So yes, start a conversation. You just never know, do you? And chances are, “every little thing’s gonna be all right…” right?

Enjoy a brand new story tomorrow on Drift with Erin Davis and then Thursday, episode 3 of Gracefully and Frankly, my new podcast with Lisa Brandt. We’ve had well over 2000 listens and we’d love you to join us,  too. We’ll talk to you then! Or better yet, now!

Rob WhiteheadMonday, January 16, 2023