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Susan Pinker and Cashier Chat

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Saturday, April 04, 2020

Dr. Susan Pinker is the psychologist whose research on social connection has underscored how important face-to-face interaction is to longevity.

Women have lived longer than men in almost all societies because, even in a digital age, they still connect more face-to-face. (Yes, of course there's a Pinker TED talk on the topic -- from 2017!!)

Or: they did: until COVID-19 imposed our new regimes of social distancing. On men and women alike . . .

A short piece in my Globe this morning cites Susan Pinker's account of new neuroscience research demonstrating that the need for social connection "resides" in the same area of the brain as our craving for food. Social connection, she says, is as essential for human survival as food itself.

Are we eating more while we're social-isolating? Or at the very least, feeling hungrier?

Another short piece in my Globe this morning points to the burden we may be imposing on our heroic grocery store cashiers. If our only social interaction is checking out our groceries, and each and every one of us uses that brief interaction to talk about COVID-19, then the cashier can quickly become utterly overwhelmed.

One grocery store manager has requested that customers who feel the need to chat talk about ANYTHING other than the pandemic. The weather, the robins, the crocuses. But, he says: please NOT about our fears or the latest statistics about planking the curve. Because the cashier is actually dealing with those fears much more intensely and all day long than we are . . . needing the work, doing the work, but worrying about what she's taking home to her family at the end of the day. She didn't sign on to be our psychotherapist too.

Yes, I can do that. Our trip to pick up groceries this morning was fast fast fast: in at 7 am , and out in 40 minutes with the other seniors. It was astonishing how well stocked (fresh raspberries? abundant TP?) and how clean (sanitized carts, hand washing stations, hand sanitizers too) and how organized (pathways set out up and down the aisles right to the plexi-screened checkout) the store was yet again today.

Saw several people we know and exchanged greetings from a distance.

Nodded to the shelf stockers. And thanked the cashier warmly . . . but no COVID-19 chat. None at all. .

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • CHERYLHURT
    Thanks
    53 days ago
  • POLSKARENIA
    We need to realise that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is not always close enough or bright enough to see.
    55 days ago
  • CHRISTINEBWD
    I am so glad you brought this up. Good to know.
    57 days ago
  • TOMATOCAFEGAL
    What a great way of thinking. Staying positive!
    57 days ago
  • MAMADEE016
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    I'm not the one going out, but I will pass this message on to those who do - talk about anything else, like the weather, the signs of spring, things that make one feel good!

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    57 days ago
  • JUNETTA2002
    I'm jealous stocked shelves. emoticon
    57 days ago
  • NEBRASKANNIE
    Thank you!
    57 days ago
  • TRAILBLAZER6
    Good idea! emoticon
    57 days ago
  • KITTYHAWK1949
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    57 days ago
  • NANCY-
    I did thank the store manager for his bravery... he was stocking paper goods at the time. But the others I just continue the usual weekly banter. and observe personal distancing.
    58 days ago
  • BJAEGER307
    This has really made people appreciate everyday they are healthy, I must say. I hope that when this is all over and it will be over that we keep appreciating what we have and keep extending kindness to everyone.
    58 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/5/2020 11:28:54 AM
  • SNOOPYLINKOS
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    58 days ago
  • KALIGIRL
    Here's to exchange!
    58 days ago
  • BESSHAILE
    I have only been out and about 3 times since the first "request" to stay home hit - and I was amazed at how MUCH i wanted to gush thanks to everyone working around me. Yes. I succumbed to them all, the women behind desks, the men toting boxes, the people who actually had to touch me at the doctor's. Yes. I would have hugged them all if I could have. But I thanked them again and again and then told them what the weather was like outdoors.

    Truth? I'm barely talking about this situation at all because sheesh? what good does it do? and I'm not scolding on facebook, which is the only other social media type thing I participate in. Not the people who are making decisions for me, not the people who are trying to work the system. As I said 2 weeks ago. "Yes. This is hard. But not for me". I hope it's not for you either.

    Glad you liked the studio tour. It really is the heart of my world. Juno the Prayer Dog loves it too. I'll be out there today - working on something creative and gloriously fun. Thanks for the bloglove.
    58 days ago
  • NASFKAB
    Try not to talk about the pandemic with anyone.
    58 days ago
  • _RAMONA
    Not dwelling here, either... much better for mental health. How astute and wise of that manager! Well done on all of your parts!
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    58 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
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    58 days ago
  • DOVESEYES
    Wonderful to think of others , women do need that interaction :) men at least in my house hold tend to be ok on their own. :)
    59 days ago
  • MEADSBAY
    Never would have thought of that!
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    59 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    I can really believe Susan Pinker! I spent an hour talking to a friend on FaceTime yesterday. Except for DH, I hadn’t met anyone face to face for a while. I had been in a big funk of fear for several days but it evaporated and I didn’t even feel the need to check the news this morning. We talked mostly about things other than the virus.

    PS It would be interesting to compare in-the-flesh conversations and FaceTime or Skype or Zoom conversations.
    59 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/5/2020 1:46:21 AM
  • 1CRAZYDOG
    I really never thought about it, but that's the truth. They hear about this all day long while they are worried about their own families.

    HUGS to you and thanks for this information!
    59 days ago
  • GABY1948
    Great thoughts you give me. For me, I'm actually doing VERY good....no stomach aches even. Even I am shocked at that because that is usually my first reaction. I hope that is a good sign and I'm actually "gorwing up"

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    59 days ago
  • HARROWJET
    It is good to remember that cashiers want to talk about something pleasant. emoticon
    59 days ago
  • JEANKNEE
    You ask ...

    Are we eating more while we're social-isolating? Nope. Actually, eating less.

    Or at the very least, feeling hungrier? Again, nope. Reduced appetite.

    I tend not to chit chat with cashiers. But, will certainly keep in mind that any exchanges should steer clear of pandemic talk.

    59 days ago
  • MTN_KITTEN
    The overwhelming employees that ARE working need our support.

    Mums the word on alllll the world events.
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    59 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    It is amazing how important every single person is to our world and how people are really coming to see it. I appreciate those cashiers as I hate self serve check out lines and they are definitely coming into contact with even more people than me right now so I pray for absolutely everyone who is out doing an essential job, truckers, housekeeping personnel, every single person who works in a store, delivery people as everyone is ordering on line these days! We are all essential in our own way!
    Stay safe! Sending virtual hugs!
    59 days ago
  • PATRICIA-CR
    I also avoid talking about it. Enjoy life, however it comes.
    59 days ago
  • PHEBESS
    Love it!!! I'll have to remember this!!!
    59 days ago
  • SHERYE
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    59 days ago
  • PENOWOK
    So important, though, to give those employees a smile and recognize the risks they are in the middle of! I kind word goes a long way! My Life Group is meeting on Zoom. It's free for a 40 minute session with your friends, if you want that face to face. It was mostly a positive experience for me! So glad to see the group of women I have been meeting with-most of them for years! Happy they are safe and healthy and most of them still working...also using Zoom to provide therapy treatments with little guys, billing for medical offices, greeting patients, working on taxes, and so many more essential tasks!
    59 days ago
  • JHADZHIA
    I have never felt the need to be social. Even with my own family here in tight quarters, I feel restless and wanting my own space back. My sister is wanting to go home again and I prefer to go back to my apartment but Mom has asked me to stay and help with cleaning and she rarely asks for anything so I guess I will stay. But do miss the privacy to practice my qigong. Some movement can be done silently, but the healing stuff needs sound and that sound healing is what I am currently learning and reaching high levels, but daily practice is a must.
    We don't engage in chit chat with the store clerks, but instead wish them well and thank them for their service. We, more than the average person appreciate them, as we keep fingers crossed that my brother doesn't get sick working in the crowded store. They have brought in measures, but the store he works at has a lot of people still not listening.
    Wishing you continued health and safety
    59 days ago
  • SUSIEMT
    I agree with others that it is nice to speak of other things! I know when I overdose on world news I have a harder time getting to sleep and staying asleep!
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    59 days ago
  • EISSA7
    Important reminder for all of us...thank you for it. AND a huge thank you to all of our grocery store employees who are working daily in the face of danger!
    59 days ago
  • NANASUEH
    I've seen that before, even before the virus. You can tell who craves the connection by the ones who tie up the line with chit chat.

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    59 days ago
  • NEW-CAZ
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    59 days ago
  • ALICIA363
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    59 days ago
  • MOLLIEMAC
    I just accessed online ordering from our Superstore (Loblaws), even here in a quiet little part of the world my earliest pickup date is April 14. I am doubling down for the duration, however long that may be (talking maybe mid July here). emoticon
    59 days ago
  • no profile photo INCH_BY_INCH
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    59 days ago
  • OVERWORKEDJANET
    I sure get that after being on the front line in health care all those years.
    My comments to our wonderful workers?
    You have pretty eyes.
    Thanks for helping.
    I am so glad you're here!
    Have a great day!

    Anything is better than being reminded of your own fears.
    59 days ago
  • MARTHA324
    Wow, I hadn't thought about the burden the cashiers are under the way you describe it. They are true heroes and if I do go to the store will remember to share a good encouraging story not related to the pandemic.

    Here in Florida all the walkers have gotten much friendlier and it's no longer the perfunctory wave. Now we smile and ask how we're doing and remark on the weather or something. Social distancing doesn't have to mean not being social.
    59 days ago
  • SLIMMERJESSE
    I went this morning also. I was one of the only ones without a face covering. I forgot mine, but bought an extra bandana in case I forget again. Anything is better than nothing.
    59 days ago
  • HAPPYSOUL91
    Yes, it is so nice to talk about anything other than the pandemic. I thanked the grocery workers yesterday when I went during senior hours. emoticon
    59 days ago
  • no profile photo RACHNACH
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    59 days ago
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