Have you ever had a baby stare at you? You’ll be out in public somewhere, minding your own business, when suddenly a baby will look at you and refuse to stop until you smile back at them.
Then the bait’s set.
They will look away, maybe at the pastries in the glass case, but quickly turn their attention back to you. Pacifier in mouth, their smile will still shine out of their eyes like lasers, bearing into your soul and consciousness until you smile back.
At a certain point you begin to worry that the baby’s parents will think you are creepy because you keep smiling at their baby. Perhaps they are baby-selfish and only want their baby to smile at them. I don’t know, but you begin to worry.
And yet, the baby keeps smiling at you so you smile back and feel a little creepy but also feel really happy because that baby is happy.
Then the baby will look and smile and point to the pasties in the glass case and you will suddenly want those pastries in the glass case. Suddenly those pastries make you happy.
Maybe the baby is all a marketing ploy for those pastries.
I don’t know. Either way you’re happy.
* * *
Have you ever had a random old person give you life advice? You’ll be out in public somewhere when the voice of someone’s grandfather comes out of nowhere and says the equivalent of a Chinese proverb. And you never know what they are going to say.
“Do 90% of the work and only expect 10% from your sweetheart.”
“Oh, if only I could be your age again. Live it up.”
“Well call me a sponge and soak me up.”
Old people are kind of loose cannons when it comes to advice. A lot of people blame it on senility, but I don’t blame it on anything. I think it’s just someone saying what needs to be said. Like a beautiful, random abandonment.
So this older person will say something and you will freeze like you’ve been caught stealing a diamond. For a few moments you won’t know what to do because you’re not used to kind old men telling you life advice; clearly you are not Harry Potter, but this man very well could be Dumbledore.
For a split second you are tempted to run away, but you’re oddly enticed by what’s happening, by what he said. Part of you—most of you—wants to be as abandoned as he is and just speak when the speaking’s good.
You turn, smile, and say thank you. He will smile really big and make a joke about how old he is and how young you are. Then he will smile some more.
You will say “Have a nice day!” and continue walking to wherever you were headed.
But you will be smiling. And you will be one piece of life-advice richer.
* * *
Today I was sitting in my usual writing spot when a baby came in and started smiling at me. He had parents of course, he wasn’t some kind of genius baby with a briefcase needing coffee before his workday. But he came in and kept looking at me and smiling. He even had a pacifier in his mouth and was still smiling out of his eyes and everything.
I couldn’t help but smile back. His parents and I made little, formal laughter, but the baby didn’t notice. He just kept smiling. Staring at the pastries. Then smiling at me some more. Then staring at the pastries.
His eyes shone and I smiled.
* * *
I was at this same coffee shop about a year and a half ago when an old man stopped me, loaded up some life advice, and fired it my way.
He told me, he said, “Smile with your voice.”
That really stuck with me. I smiled at him and said, “Thank you, I hope to do that!”
He smiled back, and we both continued with our days.
* * *