Conversation Starters at the Grocery Store

It’s time.

I remember making a list of resolutions for the new year back on the eve of 2017. I had an aggressive list of 17 items, and I saved it on my phone. Of course, I did. I only aced one goal – jettison the word amazing from my vocabulary. My good friend said I was using it too much in text messages, and you could replace it with an emoji. Get with the times, man. So, amazing never showed up on my text messages or conversations for the last five years. Of course, a global pandemic helped with that goal, too.

Now, a new lexicon challenge is printed in Siouxland Magazine for all to see. Here it is in black and white type, and nothing to hide.

I will not ask complete strangers how they are doing. It’s not that I don’t care. I do, and I like to believe I am one compassionate dude. However, the answer is often a hollow good, fine, or okay. I can get those answers from a teenage son in the high school parking lot and it doesn’t move the conversation forward. I learn no new information. If they are really contemplating one of life’s big questions, most people won’t likely get into it in the grocery store. Never have I asked a non-best friend how they were doing and engaged in a truly compelling conversation lasting more than two minutes. 

So, what’s a good replacement? I’m listening carefully for suggestions. My first gut reaction is to follow a greeting with a nice compliment. “Good morning. I like your shirt.” “Well, hello there, your hairstyle is very reminiscent of an 80’s hair-band, and that brings me boundless joy.”On second thought, this salutation line may lead me to a meeting from the Human Resources department at work, or even worse, a bar fight! 

What brings joy to a conversation? It’s not politics, gas prices, or religion. At the past Siouxland Home Show, three individuals greeted me and asked if I was doing ok. One lady named Janice told me I worked too much, and I needed a vacation. I ran back to the office and filled out the vacation leave request forms that next day.

Co-workers lovingly tease me about my love of music, tv, and movies. In my free time, I rank my favorite movies and songs of all time, and my favorite chats often center around these topics. With that in mind, “Good afternoon, what was your favorite song sophomore year in high school?” Or “Hey, good to see you, that Joey and Rachel romance plotline in Friends was lame, right?”. How much better would the pop-tart aisle be if you asked someone “Do you think Cocktail was the most likable character Tom Cruise has ever played?” Prove me wrong. Come to think of it, if we’re talking Cocktail, it should be in the liquor aisle or maybe while couch shopping.

So, when it comes to, “How you doing?” I’ll leave that for Joey Tribbiani.  

Man, that show was amazing.

Dang, it. Insert emoji here.

Tony Michaels

Doing just fine – morning show host on KSUX.

Author of “Tacos and Beer Atmosphere” / Starting Conversations podcaster

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