There are a few barometers that give me a quick reading on my general sense of well-being. If I’m not always sporting fresh lipstick, there is a problem in my life. Likewise, if I have stopped idle chit chat with strangers, silently moving through my daily routine in New York, then I need to do some internal work.
Yesterday, I was grabbing a bite to eat in Rockefeller Center as I set out on Act II of the day. As I gobbled down pizza from Harry’s, I could only find a bench that hugged the wall around the corner from the ice rink, which is being prepared for a mid-October opening. A young woman asked if she could sit next to me. “Sure!” I responded. As she opened a folder and carefully read over her notes, I asked, “Are you here for an interview?” Job applicants, like blind dates, are easy to pick out in a crowd. Turns out she was interviewing for an intern position at the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. After a few back and forths, I learned she was a film and marketing student at THE Ohio State University. I tried to draw her out in conversation, as she said she was very nervous. I reassured her that the Midwest “thing” was big in NYC, and it played well in interviews. I also reminisced about one of my favorite job interview stories. I’d recently started working at 1221 Avenue of the Americas in what was then the McGraw Hill Building. I was outside during my lunch hour and a beautiful young woman asked if she could borrow my phone—hers was dead. She said she’d just interviewed for a job and was calling to see if she got it. “Of course,” I answered. I was trying not to eaves drop but shortly into the call I heard her say, “34-23-34.” I couldn’t not ask, “What was the job you applied for?” She happily told me she’d just been selected as a Rockette for the holiday season. It was a magical New York moment for both of us. Joanne, my new OSU friend, liked the anecdote and was grateful for our conversation. I handed her my business card and invited her for coffee when she moved to NYC for her internship!
My dear sister will agree with me that our mutual incessant chatter is a genetic condition. But it has served us well, overall. Our hunch was confirmed when I came upon an NPR piece, a few months ago, that made just this claim. Two University of British Columbia researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Gillian M. Sandstrom showed that by having short conversations with strangers during routine tasks (buying coffee, standing in line at the grocery store, etc.), it boosts one’s mood. (Leave it to the Canadians!). There is a larger body of emerging research on the topic, but you get the picture.
It’s a no brainer….investing in small moments of human connection in a big city is a winning way to be happier…while potentially helping another person along the way.