I pulled to the stop light and waited to turn right. The same stop light. The same right. The same wait that I have every morning.
In true Seattle form the man on the corner was frowning in my general direction. Closed off. Suspicious. Practicing the freeze.
And then I smiled at him. I looked right at him and when he met my eyes, I smiled. In an instant I watched him decide his next move. He could ignore me, he could continue to frown, or he could smile. My heart leapt when he opted for the latter and smiled back at me. The surprise in his face at his own smile made me chuckle, which in turn made him chuckle.
When I first moved to Seattle, I wondered if I had done something wrong. Curly hair? Big girls? Was it the tan that I already had in May when I arrived? (Let’s face it, north-westerners envy a good tan in August much less May!) But as Seattle has grown on me, I am slowly learning to not take the standoffishness and slight suspicion of Seattleites personally. I know enough new arrivals to have figured out that this is not about me and is actually not even meant to be cold or rude. After all…heaven forbid…the practically Canadian inhabitants of this city be seen as anything other than polite.
Despite these realizations, I do sometimes have to remind myself to stay open. To continue to be someone who smiles and makes lots of eye contact. To be the overly friendly, flirts with everyone (young, old, male, female, etc.) person that I was born to be. And that includes even the times when my inner-curmudgeon wants to sneak out…in broad daylight (or what passes for “broad daylight” in these parts). I try to remember to pay a frown with a smile, a sigh with a bit of humor, and snark for snark (Seriously…I don’t really DO the opposite of snark so that is an equal exchange. Sorry not sorry).
And then lovely things happen like the man at the corner…or the amazing exchange I had this morning.
Nearly every day I see a particular homeless man walking down 4th street when I’m driving to work. He smiles. No…wait…that is not a sufficient description. This man BEAMS at everyone he meets and he also smiles sweetly to some force or stranger or being that none of the rest of us can see. He has lovely, happy heartfelt conversations with what seems to be thin air. And each time I see him, I smile because he is the picture of contentment.
Today I stopped for coffee on my route, pulling into a place I rarely go, much less frequent. As I walked to the door, this lovely man, said “Good morning! You drive a gray jeep and sing with the radio. I’m Mike.”
Stunned but recognizing his energized smile, I returned “Good morning! I’m Leah and yes I do drive a grey Jeep. How did you know that?
Mike replied shyly, “I see you every day and you sing with the radio, most days, though lately not as much.”
“It’s been a hard couple of weeks Mike. Not a lot of singing.”
“Oh Leah, you should always sing when you drive even on the bad days. It makes you smile.”
“I’m pretty sure I smile because YOU always smile. You are one of the happiest people I’ve ever seen.”
Shrugging, Mike looked to his “friend” then turned to me and said “Gotta go. See you.”
Every now and then, the world hands you something sweet like a moment with Mike…or the guy on the corner…or a sunset from Alki…or the perfect raspberry. I’d sure hate to miss it. And for the record, I sang the whole way home at the top of my lungs with the radio on the way home.