We’ve all experienced it; as the holidays grow closer, the shopping becomes more frenzied. The pressure: get everything just right, make the best Christmas dinner, get the Christmas cards out in the mail, buy the right gifts, wrap them, send them, etc. And the list goes on.
Each time I go to my grocery store, I can feel the tension in the air as people start looking for the best turkeys, prime rib, hams, etc. People clutch their lists and mumble to themselves as they move from aisle to aisle. The stress is palpable.
Many folks have just come from work, and are frantically shopping for the evening meal or are stocking up on treats for Christmas stockings. Everyone looks stressed and more than a little cranky. It may be the time of year when the world falls in love (as the song says), but more often it’s more crabbiness in the air than peace on earth, good will toward men.
I took me years to figure this out, but I have perfected the “defensive smile” for days like this. So what exactly is a defensive smile? It is a relaxed and ‘I’ve got this covered’ smile; one that may diffuse someone’s frustration while they are waiting, ticket in hand, to order their sliced ham, cheese, turkey, etc. at the deli counter. Since someone with an actual smile on their face is relatively rare in situations like this, it often makes other people smile.
Oh, of course there are going to be the Crabby McCrabbensteins who want to know what in the hell you are smiling about, but fortunately, they are in small numbers. Another plus for the defensive smile is that it is calming for the smiler. Knowing that I am smiling makes me feel calm. The smile works both ways, you see.
The defensive smile is also great to use at the checkout. Usually I have only about 18-20 items in my cart, so I go in the 20 items or less aisle to pay. Often there are folks who get behind me and only have a few things, so I tell them to go ahead of me. I’m not in any hurry, and it tickles me when the surprised person says, ‘really? It’s ok with you?’ I tell them that the delay is only keeping me from housework. And then we both smile.