My 8 year old daughter and I walked up to CVS to fill a prescription and get my wife some funky nail polish Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. My daughter had on her blue furry ears headband from Great Wolf Lodge. She displays no self-consciousness wearing those blue wolf ears anywhere, and as such I often forget she has them on.
It was 8:47am and we were surprised to find the line waiting on prescriptions was 6 people long. Not wanting my daughter to get bored and antsy I decided to do “I Spy” with her to give her a focus.
Part of what I do is create and play games in this business, creator of the Ultimate Games Masters. I love making games interesting and fun. I’ve been doing it for 20 some odd years. But much like a massage therapist may not massage their spouse at home, I tend to veer away from playing at home.
But this line looked it was going to be a while.
So I said "I Spy something green", and she immediately took the cue and started looking. A CVS is not a bad place to engage in I Spy.
She began looking in only one direction on the aisle with the allergy remedies. Pointing to every allergy bottle she spotted that was green out she could see, “This one.” “No.” So I began adding in “Hot and Cold”, “you’re cold, you’re freezing, and you’re an igloo.”
At first I have to admit I was a little self-conscious doing this with people in front and behind us in the line. But my daughter was having a blast so we kept going. Finally on the 18th guess she got it.
Her turn. She picked out something pink, but my daughter being 8 years old, I just followed her gaze as she was searching for something and then when she said Pink, I turned around and looked in the direction she was gazing right before she said “pink” and I said “the sign.” She said “Right!”
That’s where a parent can impress their child if they want. Like I had special “magic” powers, but I demystified it for her. “I just looked exactly where you were last looking when you said the color.” She being the quick study got it immediately, and stumped me on the next “spy” of magenta.
I confess I’m never sure exactly what color magenta actaully is unless I'm the one who's pointing it out.
The game went on. The Indian couple behind me were starting to get into it. He pointed to my daughter’s blue furry ears on her head. A non-verbal cue to pick her ears as the next target.
My turn was next, “I spot something furry.” The Indian gentleman behind her smiled. He was part of the game now. His wife was smiling behind her.
My daughter was getting stumped, and then she said, “Oh my ears!” and started laughing at how obvious it was. So did my silent helper. Then I credited him. I said that was his pick. Now the guy behind the counter was now smiling. The Indian couple were now laughing.
I realize I was smiling. It really is cool to go from nothing to humor with people you don’t know. Somehow on a minor level it brings people together. Particularly if there can be humor in it.
My daughter and I didn’t find everything we needed, okay it was a toilet roll holder, so we ran across the street to a DEALS discount store. We asked the manager where we could find the roller and he said all the way down to aisle 1 and all the way back.
My daughter and I were now both in a great mood, and we saw a bunch of nerf footballs. So of course we had to stop and see if she remembered how to throw a spiral. Mine was a perfect toss….hers had some wobble to it.
Then a few feet down were these really cool nerf-like swords. I grabbed one and threw it to her and we became 2 out of 3 Musketeers in a duel to save the queen.
I was going to buy them but they packed a bit of a punch when swung. I asked my girl to to wallop me on the back, because I know her 6 year old sister hits harder than that. So as much as we loved the swords, I knew D’Artagnon and Aramis would be crying real tears if those swords made it home.
When we made it back to the check out, behind the counter was very colorful hula hoops.
My daughter took one and said I’m good at this, found a spot by the front entryway and spun it around her waist. I said go down on one knee and come back up, one of the calls I do in our Hula Hoop Championships.
The checkout girl who previously had a frozen scowl on her face, apparently not so good a morning, began smiling. Her face completely came back to life. She actually looked pretty with her face shining. I said come on out here and show us what you can do. I could see she was ready to give it a go but another customer approached with a purchase.
So off we went.
The inspired moment emerged in trying to proactively head off a bad situation. Instead of becoming the victim to the boredom, moaning and complaining about waiting, instead of people retreating to their cell phones for distraction, they saw my daughter engaged and perked up.
In that moment I rediscovered alive energy is compelling. it FEELS better, richer somehow to connect with another person in a positive way. And I realized that no matter how great Tech is it disconnects us from the present surrounding and takes us away from "here."
And I love technology. I'm amazed by it. Get excited by the next mind-blowing thing.
But in all its glory, when using it we retreat into our another world away from the one we're in. I’m no different for the most part. That’s me on the Chipotle line watching Entourage Season 3. And the time gets eaten by our emails, Facebook, tweeting. I'm grateful for it.
But I'm unavailable in that moment I'm using it.
Engaging with others uplifts our mood, if not our souls differently than technology can. While we may not be able to put our fingers on it, there’s no substitute for a live human energy exchange. It charges us up like a It lift to the psyche and peace to the soul. Maybe somewhere in our DNA our circuitry lights up just a little more.
What I rediscovered today was in engaging with my child and opening that up to others, it’s extending an opportunity for that human charge. When they accept they get it too. They also become less a stranger, to less threatening, move toward friendly, to likeable, to possible acquaintance, or even friend.
I realized that’s not my natural instinct. I realized the most natural default and comfortable thing to do in a long line of strangers is complain and commiserate. Cell phones have put an end to that exchange.
But what about when you’re at a water park like Great Wolf Lodge? Your phone is in the locker you have no tech. Just lines. Long lines. That’s old school standing around commiserating an unpleasant fate, (“If this line were any slower we’d be going backwards” to “yeah what gives, can’t they be any slower up there).
Commiseration is instant rapport but it’s empty calories. It usually quickly forgotten because it doesn’t really make anyone feel better unless there’s some dark humor in it. And then even it’s disposable and lost.
But if we engage in something upbeat and fun our insides seem to change. Than so does our outlook.
Everyone is not comfortable with talking with strangers. I confess I’m not. It’s also something we’re taught from early on NOT to do. It’s not listed as a natural fear like falling and death, but could be under the second tier of fear of public speaking. That's where tech comes to the rescue. It keeps us okay where we are in our old ways, safe.
Maybe that’s why it feels so good when you get a positive exchange with a stranger. It breaks through a taboo that was imposed to protect us when we’re young, but wasn’t meant to be the way we live our lives.
When I’m working a party or event, I find I still have to overcome that old childhood fear of talking with strangers. And that’s how the Ultimate Games Master got invented. I wanted to come up with something that easily engages interest and action between people without a second thought or worry.
And that’s something we can all benefit more from. Next time you’re on a line with a friend or family member try a little I Spy. Get creative with it. Get wacky. Play outside the lines. See if you can get people to laugh. It will charge you up. I promise. See if you don’t walk away a little more upbeat.