The other morning I was having trouble sending an email from my laptop so I called my email provider’s tech support. After repeating all of my security words and listening to five minutes of recorded music, a tech support guy named Alex offered assistance. As we went through the steps of installing and re-installing software, we chatted about the weather and the upcoming weekend. This was quite pleasant. Alex sounded like he might be from the Midwest.
“What city are you in?” I asked. “Chicago?”
Alex hesitated and then said that he was in Europe. He said, “I’m from a place near the Carpathian Mountains. Have you ever heard of Tr…”
“Transylvania?” I blurted out. “I have relatives from Transylvania!”
What a small world! I was always proud of the fact that my grandmother (my father’s mother) was born in Transylvania, Hungary. The same Transylvania of Count Dracula lore. From that point on, we chatted about Alex’s 1-year-old daughter, his parents’ country house in the mountains, and the tourist destination that Dracula’s Castle has become. Technically, Romania acquired a chunk of Hungary after World War I and the ethnic Hungarians living in Transylvania were treated harshly. The street names were changed to Romanian names, the Hungarian language was banned in schools, etc. But Alex and I did not touch upon that.
By the time that my email was up and running, it felt like we were old friends. We had made a connection and that made resolving my technology problems even better.
I started thinking about other daily connections in my life that make the day brighter. Whenever I stop into the Chase Bank in Cross River, several voices call out “Hi, Kim!” It’s like my own personal “Cheers” (1980s TV sitcom reference) when John, Karen, Amanda, Meaghan and Angjelo smile and ask how I am and make conversation about the weather outside or weekend plans. I always get a warm greeting from Elaine, Joyce and Ann at the Cross River Pharmacy. I could ask them to lend me $5 or a kidney (well, maybe not a kidney) and they would be happy to oblige. It’s that small-town connection that makes a big difference. It makes you feel acknowledged. Those every day interactions become more personal when you know the names of the people who are part of your life. Like Sam and Tom in the Cross River Post Office. Like the super-cheerful Adalberto at the Cross River Shell Station, wishing me “Create a nice day!” after I pay for my gasoline.
Acknowledging people by name makes an immediate connection. We are humans. We all have health and work and family issues. We have all experienced the sullen clerk, teller, cashier or receptionist at some point in our day-to-day lives. But doesn’t it make your errands, doctor appointments and endless demands on your time a little bit easier when someone takes the extra step of making eye contact and saying a few kind words? It goes both ways, of course. The person working on the other side of the desk also brightens and enjoys that positive feeling of being acknowledged when greeted by name. I am not advocating that everyone should wear name tags (that was Kramer’s idea on a “Seinfeld” episode). I just feel fortunate to live in an area with a small-town vibe where connecting in person still happens every day.
Kim Kovach enjoys facilitating connections between students in her adult fiction writing classes and creative writing classes for children and teens. Please visit her website at kimkovachwrites.com.