On Saturday, I spent a couple of hours at our local Foodland trying to promote our small curling club. We had a tiny table set up with a lone chair, our club banner and some flyers with information about our open houses and our membership rates. What I thought was going to be a couple of hours of chatting about the club turned into a very eye-opening experience and a great deal of fodder for this blog post.
If you have ever shopped in a grocery store, you have undoubtedly seen small town clubs raising awareness (or funds) for their groups. Having never been on this side of the table before, I was ill-prepared for the events that transpired.
Many locals did stop at the table. To their good fortune, and our misfortune, they were snow birds counting the days until they left for the sunny south. We did receive a collection of names to add to our list of possible new members. But what I didn’t expect were the reactions of the multitude of people going by who would do anything to avoid eye contact with me.
Let me remind you, I was not selling anything or asking for money. Most shoppers picked up their pace as they passed me, looking straight ahead as if trying to remember where they parked their car. Several people didn’t even want to know why I was sitting in that cold lobby, they just told me they didn’t have any cash and kept moving. One lady went so far as to tell me she had already donated! This generous stranger had somehow anonymously given money to our little curling club and nobody on the executive committee were any the wiser.
The crowning glory was a middle-aged woman who, as she pushed her full grocery cart past me, simply responded “NO” when I had asked, “How are you today?”.
I was in awe of how quickly people were willing to dismiss me, to turn a blind eye and not even take a moment to understand why I was there. My presence wasn’t threatening. I was not holding my hand out asking for anything. To say I was disappointed by the reactions of those people is an egregious understatement. And I can only hope that if I ever have a knee-jerk reaction to a similar situation, that I’m not such a jerk about it.