Thursday, February 28, 2013

You Have Been Randomly Selected

By JccKeith

Today, all day that is, I committed 27 random acts of kindness, 2 interventions and 3 free psychologist sessions.  Let me break it down for you how that all happened.

I was driving along after dropping off my kids and I decided at random to be totally random today.  Such a bizarre concept, randomness is.  Completely at odds it is with the idea of fate or even with the idea of the word ‘usual’ or ‘ordinary.’  On a usual day I would take part in the same or pretty much the same activities as I do normally take part in throughout the week. 

For example I might make a few phone calls, pay a few bills, take a long nap, get things ready for dinner later, do the dishes and/or laundry, clean a little and come up with at least three brilliant ideas.  O.k. that last one is a bit of a stretch. I’m lucky enough to have any ideas before at least 5 p.m. let alone any brilliant ones.  

Even that is a stretch.  Most of my best work happens after 7 p.m.  I suppose the sun, as much as I love basting in it throughout the summer, does not inspire as wonderful ideas as the moon seems to for me.

At any rate, there I was in the midst of my drive home when the word random occurred to me.  I made a trip to the nearest grocery store.  While at this grocery store I altered my normal routine and randomly selected various individuals based on random elements or characteristics.  These chosen few would be my guinea pigs whether they liked it or not.

Much to the amusement of the clerk, I stood in line with a cart full of things for roughly twenty minutes.  At times I read a magazine or pretended to be mulling over my possible purchases.  The point of this little exercise in ridiculousness was kindness.  There at the line, I was always the next in line and with a full cart of items.  At the only open checkout, I was thus in the position to be nice.

So for ten people, who each had fewer items than me, I let them go ahead of me.  Yes, you’re welcome sir or ma’am, I am graciously saving you time by allowing you to now be next in line.  There were two other people who arrived at the line with quite a few items.  Rather than wait even a millisecond to see if I would let them go ahead of me, they immediately started talking very loudly, almost shouting about how there was only one register open and “Isn’t there anyone else working at this store?” and other much ruder comments such as “Wtf?” or “This is bullsh**!”

At those two times I considered as these people were exceptionally rude and intolerant, not letting them go ahead of me.  They were just loaded with negativity.  But I decided not to continue the negative trend and offer them the coveted “Next” position. Despite this offer, neither person said thank you or altered their disgruntled attitude.

On my way to yet another location, I stopped the heavy traffic to let five different cars out of their respective parking lots of banks, hair salons, stores, etc.  I figured slowing down to let a car or two in front of me in the bumper to bumper traffic wouldn’t make that much of a difference overall time wise.  Apparently a couple of people did not agree as I could hear them laying on their horns during the two seconds it took each car to pull out into traffic.  I had to assume those people laying on their horns at this few seconds delay must be surgeons on their way to perform emergency heart or brain surgery.

I would say that perhaps they were on their way to stop an execution and grant clemency and time was an issue but I am not aware of any executions today.  I’m also pretty sure they grant clemency and stop executions by phone these days anyway.  I also ruled out these people being firefighters or ambulance drivers since there were no sirens or ambulances or fire trucks behind me.

Another ten people were randomly selected to be part of my randomness at Walgreens.  In line back at the pharmacy counter, waiting to obtain one of those sequestered Pseudoephedrine laced sinus medications, I let ten different people in front of me so that they could experience the greatness that is – being ‘Next.’ 

In my time at the Walgreens in the medication aisles, I engaged two different people contemplating vitamin purchases.  Chatting about vitamins and their lack of regulation by the FDA, I informed these two individuals of some of the not so well known facts.  Vitamins are not strictly regulated.  They can have as much or as little of the vitamin or mineral element in them as they want.  They can put on their label that this vitamin or mineral provides a certain percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for the average adult for such vitamins or minerals.

No one tests these claims because they are in essence somewhat incapable of being verified.  The very fact that the RDA is for the ‘average’ adult means it is based on an average of many ranging from very small people to very large people.  Each individuals needs are different based on their own unique makeup.  But that is beside the point. 

These conversations were about Vitamin B complexes.  These people were about to shell out big bucks for this bottle of snake oil. What most people don’t realize is that Vitamin B is rarely and poorly absorbed by the human body in pill form.  For the most part, the vitamin passes right through the system without being absorbed at all. 

The most efficient way to absorb Vitamin B complex is through the sublingual form.  So I intervened and recommended they buy that form.  And I informed them that I am by no means a doctor or a pharmacist or in any way affiliated with the makers of any sublingual forms of Vitamin B complexes.  No, not me, I am just your everyday average trouble maker.

Later I stopped at the gas station, a great place where people tend to congregate.  At this particular station everyone is forced into a small rectangular area in front of the window.  Here I had three different conversations. 

These people, as oddly happens frequently at this gas station, began to tell me of the latest drama or problem in their life.  These problems ranged from the price of gas and their crappy job to their recognizing the faces in that paper that shows the latest mug shots of various arrested individuals.

Today I decided to indulge their need for conversation rather than dismissing them with a polite nod or basic remark about how that sucks.  For these three people today, I gave them my free five minute psychologist assistance.  This included listening intently to what the people were saying, rephrasing it back to them to indicate I had listened and understood, asking relevant questions and listening to their answers and following up with the standard, “Uh huh, and how does that make you feel?”  I also threw in a few, “And why do you think you feel that way?”  Followed by “How do you see this continuing in the future?” or “Is there anything you can think of to change this situation?” or the let’s dig deeper question, “Tell me more about that.  What do you mean by ‘it sucks’?  How exactly, why does it ‘suck?’

Ha Ha Ha
I did find these conversations, while not surprising, at least interesting.  The effect my mere listening had on these individuals seemed well worth the time spent listening.  All three seemed relieved to have unloaded their current burden of thoughts onto someone else for a few minutes.  I think the relief I saw on their faces was more a result of the fact that they truly believed I was listening and genuinely cared, although I did not, about what they were saying.

I should have but I did not feel the need to inform them that I am not in fact a doctor or psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or otherwise appropriately trained professional.  I am just entertaining my latest flight of fancy with randomness. 

I feel it important to also mention that today I was told by more than one person that I need a hobby.  Entertaining myself by being random apparently does not qualify as a hobby.

So what purpose did all of this random activity serve?  Well none would be the truth.  What did I learn from these activities?  Quite a few things actually, number one of which being that people generally appreciate kindness no matter how small.

On the other hand some people hold no regard for kindness and it would seem are just unhappy people determined to complain.  These people also seem intent on notifying everyone around them that they are not happy with whatever is happening at the moment.  That may occur through loud complaining or honking of horns or evil looks.

Another nugget of wisdom obtained was that people generally love to be listened to and to feel noticed.  People it seems need to be heard.  I would venture to say that most people need social interaction and even short increments of time with others can sometimes make a difference.

Um, yeah
One more thing I determined was that of all the things you can be at a store or pharmacy, ‘Next’ is the best thing to be.  Also Pseudoephedrine is way too heavily regulated.  Seriously people, not everyone who buys lithium batteries and sinus meds with Pseudoephedrine is making meth.  Some of us just require lithium batteries for our digital cameras and Pseudoephedrine to make living in this weather changing, pollen infested, swampy valley possible.

And oh yeah, I should probably get a hobby.

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