Driving through town last week, I felt a wave of optimism as I slowed my car for traffic rerouted due to the building construction on Ridge Avenue. Sounds crazy, right?
We’ve been using words like recession and downturn and crisis for so long that it’s become a habit seeking out the shuttered businesses and empty lots around town; doing so verifies what we read and hear in the media. But what if we shift our perspective, even slightly, and notice the positive?
I’m not talking about lush green grasses taking over abandoned properties.
I’m not talking about colorful bulbs popping up earlier than ever to brighten our lawns.
There’s real change going on all around us. You might have to look for it, but it’s there.
- Trader Joe’s is coming to town!
- Building construction clogs traffic, and not just for road repairs!
- Union Pizzeria just started serving brunch from 11 a.m-2 p.m. on Sundays!
- More businesses are opening in town and fewer businesses are closing (well, at least, in my opinion).
And, is it just me, or do service industry employees seem to be acting more pleasant? Some might argue that downsized, overqualified professionals have “upped” the service industry pleasantries, but I'll beg to differ.
Until recently, it wasn’t hard to pick out a disgruntled, former exec working at a grocery store or a sales clerk at The Gap showing some serious attitude since she’d lost her insurance company desk job with benefits. These days, I’m bombarded with niceties from almost every angle. “Can I carry this to your car?” “This one looks damaged; let me get you a new one. ” "Sorry for the delay." “How’s your day going?” “Thanks for shopping with us!” “I’ll only charge you for four instead of five.” “Have a great day.”
Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone’s a hero in my book. I recently walked into a local bagel shop, ordered coffee and a bagel sandwich, then sat down to get some writing done. I hadn’t used the store’s free wi-fi and I even bussed my own table.
When I brought my ceramic coffee cup up to the register, I asked the clerk for a refill (which he’d informed me was free) in a to-go cup. His boss (perhaps the owner?) looked at him with a tsk-tsk expression, then informed me that the cost of the paper cup was actually more than the cup of coffee itself. I stared blankly at her while the clerk filled the paper cup with my promised refill, but her bitter expression killed my thirst for her store’s coffee – now and forever. I left the untouched coffee in the paper cup on her counter, and I will never enter her bagel store again.
I haven’t let that incident kill my optimism that the economy's coming back. I’ll continue to look for the signs of recovery wherever I can, and hope that we’ll never forget the lessons of our past.