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Out of Our Minds
Thursday, May 11, 2006 4:41 PM
Community Matters
Kevin Salwen on Culture

The Dunkin' Donuts downstairs closed this week. That might not seem like a big deal -- and on its face it's not. After all, there are plenty of places to get coffee around here and Lord knows my butt doesn't need any more doughnuts.
But the reaction around our building has been deeper than I thought it might be. The folks at the Chick-fil-A restaurant next door were talking about it with the guy who runs the clothing and jewelry kiosks in the center of the atrium.  The security people were discussing it with the cluster of folks who stand outside smoking. In short, it became a topic for our office community, a way of bringing us together on a common topic.
It may seem like I'm overstating this. After all, on their face they were brief and benign discussions about a largely unimportant subject -- a doughnut shop bites the dust. But the closing became a means of community dialogue, bringing disparate groups into a common circle. The chats represented one of those rare times when semi-strangers engage one another. (Even our elevators now have video screens so that people don't talk to each other any more.)

I don't know about you, but I cherish those moments.  I love people, and I love connecting. For a short time, Dunkin' Donuts's closing provided that for me.


Heath Row - 5/18/2006 4:56:16 PM
I experienced something similar when a barber shop I've only gone to several times closed. I'm going to miss it! Reminds me of the James Merrill poem "An Urban Convalescence," which includes the line, "As usual in New York, everything is torn down/Before you have had time to care for it."
Caroline Amory - 5/12/2006 10:13:27 AM
We miss so many opportunities to meet interesting people when we don't strike up these kinds of conversations. I always notice this when I travel. Have you ever noticed how many conversations start as soon as your airplane lands? People always start a conversation at the end of the flight because they know the engagement will ony last for a few minutes. You'll get to the gate and deplane- never to be seen again. How about on those Super Shuttle vans that go from the airport to your hotel-your're in close quarters with 4 to 6 people for half an hour or so and we check our Blackberry's- call the office- call someone to let them know we arrived safely...when if we all exchanged info about why each of us are in town- business/pleasure..just think of who you might meet. Some of my best business opportunities have come from these casual conversations. I confess, I'm still hesitant to start talking when I board the plane for fear that I'll have to keep the conversation going for the remainder of the trip. Human nature is a strange thing.
Monica Ricci - 5/11/2006 7:11:19 PM
John, you're so right! I remember waiting in line for five hours hoping to get tickets to game six of the NLCS between the Phillies and the Braves. By the time the game started, we were all like friends and some of us actually ended up sitting together for the game. Phillies clinched the series that night to go to the World Series. It was a beautiful thing. I still remember Mitch Williams leaping off the mound like a cheerleader when he blew that last pitch by the batter for the final out. ~Monica, still hates the DH
John Gorman - 5/11/2006 6:57:25 PM
First of all, the South is infinitely more polite and friendly than the North... having lived in both regions. Monica is right. Second, I want to tell you all about Buffalo, NY. (really... you should listen.) This is the time of year when Buffalo becomes a different city. The snow has melted, people have begun to leave their homes again, and the smiles have returned to people's faces. Our climate annually brings us back together. Another talking point this year are those Buffalo Sabres, who are a game from going to the... I'll keep quiet. But, I was at the local watering hole watching the game on a big screen and it was like being at the game. Complete strangers hugged. Girls cried. Walls came crumbling down. It's funny how a little sunshine and a few men in helmets can change a city's frigid demeanor.
Monica Ricci - 5/11/2006 6:10:06 PM
Kevin, your community is now living with a lack of CRULLERS. That in itself, is tragic. And you're right about the joy of connecting with strangers. (and not in some seedy singles bar way, either) It's nice to just have a conversation with the person in line next to you at the store or on the train. What a pleasant way it is to pass the time. You have to wait anyway, why not enjoy the company of someone else who's stuck waiting too? I just love it and if I'm ever late coming home from the gym or the grocery store, my husband knows it's likely because I've stopped to chat someone up. That's part of the reason I love living in the south. People down here don't look at you like you have three heads or clutch their purse a little tighter when you strike up a conversation in the elevator. ~Monica


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