35 years ago, my grandmother took me to JC Penney. We parked on the street in front of the store, walked down the street to look in the store window of another store at something, then walked back up the street and into JC Penney. From the sales counter, almost an island of sorts, a lady looked over, smiled sincerely, and said “Hey, how are you? Let me know if I can help you. Would you like a cup of coffee or something while you shop?” My grandmother told me I could have a soda, and the lady gave me a can of Dr Pepper.
The store was small. You could see everything in it from the front door.
The lady was genuinely friendly.
As we were leaving, she said “Y’all come back and see us again. I’ll have a Dr Pepper waiting for you.”
I can still recall the atmosphere of that store, the smell…the comfort.
This was a JC Penney. It wasn’t in a mall. It wasn’t a giant department store with escalators and grumpy floor clerks.
I feel sorry for the generations younger than mine. They’ll never get to experience something like that. Genuine, friendly hospitality offered from the heart, not with a profit as the reason behind it.
We’d go to the bank, and the manager would come out to chat. My grandmother would hand him her deposit, and we’d leave. No need to see the teller, no need for a receipt.
One hot afternoon, we stepped inside of a hardware store. An old man hurried over to see how he could help us. My grandmother told him “Oh, I’m sorry, we really just came in to get out of the heat for a minute.” The man smiled and told her to take all the time she needed, and brought over a folding chair for her to sit on. A few minutes later, he brought her some ice water, and brought me a popsicle. We didn’t buy anything, but when we left, he told us thank you for coming in and to come back anytime.
What’s happened to our society? It makes me so sad that it literally brings tears to my eyes.
I blame technology.
When I was a kid, if I wanted to hang out with a friend, I’d walk over to his house to see if he could come out and play. If he did, we’d spend out day roaming around. If he couldn’t, I’d walk back home and play outside by myself, until another friend would come by to see if I could go wandering.
Today, it’s not like that. The ten year old will take out a cell phone and call his friend. if his friend can’t do anything, the ten year old will go inside and turn on the Wii.
I don’t get it at all. My generation had it the best as kids. I’d give anything to have that again. And it really frustrates me to think that it’s my generation, the one that had it the best, that has let its kids turn into a generation that would scoff at having what we had as kids. A kid today would rather go to the mall or WalMart than to step in to an old family owned shop.
I just… I don’t know. Time and progress aren’t always a good thing, I guess.