This morning I parked my car at a metered spot in Brookline and hoofed it half a mile to one of the most beautiful bakeries, Tatte. Brownstones lined my right and a woman in blue passed by on my left. As she did I made eye contact, smiled, and chirped my usual “Hello!”. To my delighted surprise, her equally spirited return greeting came almost instantly- if only you knew how many people look away when I acknowledge them. Her quick but genuine response tickled, and I walked the rest of the way feeling a tad bit lighter.
Fast forward through some pastry perusing, tea sipping and note scribbling a la Tatte, when the women next to me start “discreetly” side-eyeing my notebook, a page of which I’ve now begun staining with the dregs of my English Breakfast leaves. I realize the rather strong likelihood that my strange activity is offending their tame Wednesday brunch chatter and check my phone. An hour has passed! And I only paid for 48 minutes of parking! I cause a bit of a ruckus in gathering my things (why must I bring crafts everywhere I go?), clearing my teacup and busting out the door. There’s still a good 10 minute walk between myself and my inevitable parking ticket, so I pick up my pace from rush to trot towards the Brownstones.
From several gallops away, like the frame-by-frame delivery of a sad comic strip, I see the ticket print out (chchchchhchh), detach from its maker (zzzzip), and smack down onto my windshield. I’m there just in time for my ticketer to turn around and watch my shoulders shlump dramatically downward. Between panting breaths from frowning lips I sigh out, “This is me”, placing a defeated, consoling hand on my poor car, whose already been through enough this week. The meter guard interrupts her own automatic apology to surprise me again, saying, “You know what? If I hadn’t seen you earlier, and we hadn’t said hello to each other, I would never do this.” She slips the ticket away, crumples it into her pocket, and before walking away, smiles once more and says, “Merry Christmas.”
Thank you, kind stranger who made my morning feel special when it could have been frustrating. Never have I so directly felt the power of a friendly greeting. If that’s not Christmas spirit personified, I don’t know what is.