I live in the Midwest United States. Though your mileage may vary, especially in smaller cities you'll probably find we smile more. That is, we smile at strangers as they pass on the street—young and old, business professionals and students alike. Usually, a smile is nothing more than a friendly gesture, an acknowledgement that you're here, I'm here, ok, hello there. Sometimes, especially if a smile is returned more than once from someone you're attracted to, it's an opening to chat her up.
The magic of groceries
Last weekend I was buying groceries at the giant store I've frequented for years. I usually have a shopping routine, going at night when business is slow so I can get done faster. The disadvantage to an empty store is the poor chances of running in to anyone I might fancy. (While I'll talk elsewhere about serendipity not being something you can engineer, it is something you can encourage.) This time, I happened to go on a busy weekend afternoon. As I picked out vegetables I caught the eye of a 30-something woman diligently reviewing a written shopping list. She looked up, and we exchanged brief smiles. Was this an opening? Did she perhaps want me to talk to her? I don't know, because I didn't approach her. Because I was scared.
The internal dialogue begins
And here is where I start dissembling. Talking to myself. Making excuses, reframing my failure to try "She wasn't my type anyway," "She was just being friendly," "She looked busy," etc. The analysis begins. Why was it a big deal this time? I've approached women like this before. What's my problem? And then I wander around the store a bit longer, hoping to engineer a meeting with her again. On and on it goes. While I'm waiting in the checkout line, during the drive home. Do you see how this works? I spend thirty minutes justifying to myself why I didn't spend two talking to her to find out if she was receptive to a coffee.
The moral of the story?
Just talk to her. Say something. Smile, be friendly. Make a joke, even a bad one. If you're feeling clever, ask if she needs help finding an item on her list. If she asks "Do you work here?" say "No, but I'm a veteran shopper/grocery ambassador/vegetable expert."1 Ask what she's cooking tonight.
This is what I should have done, and remind myself to do next time I'm shopping on a busy Saturday. It's not that hard.