One Smile is All it Takes

Queues are stressful. Whether they are airport security lines or the lines at the passport office; they are all uniformly distasteful.
Here’s what happened two weeks ago.
I have to get a passport renewal done. I reach at 9.45AM to see that a large line has already formed, since people have been queuing up from 8.00AM. I am lucky to get in by 10.20AM. I am then asked to wait behind 5 other people in the “Tatkal” line and I realize that my turn will come only after an hour.
An hour of waiting can be quite difficult. Luckily, I have some calls to complete and this takes up 30 odd minutes. I spend the rest of the time studying the situation and the people around me. There are long lines everywhere and behind me in the “Tatkal” line there are now more than 10 people.
The clerks are reasonably polite but as time passes by there is some irritation that seems to creep in. Part of this is because many people have not come with the appropriate paperwork or some want to get the police check process canceled since they want to leave the country the very next day; the clerks are not empowered to allow this and a lot of time is wasted in needless arguing.
When my turn comes, I find out to my chagrin that my paperwork is not complete as well. I need to get a couple of old visas copied. The clerk though is quite nice and asks me to get the copies and come back immediately. Luckily, the copier is in the adjacent office in the same complex. There is a small waiting period during which I get into a fight with another woman who has come after me but wants her papers copied out of turn.
I am now quite irritated, but luckily the paperwork is now fine. The clerk now asks me to stand in another line to pay the money. It’s been two hours now and I want to get back to work. There are six people in front of me and I can see that I will have to stand for another 30 odd minutes. I can feel myself frowning and knotting up.
I keep looking around, trying to distract myself. As I turn around, a pretty woman in her mid-20s gives me a broad, eye-reaching smile. One smile. In that instant, my frown just dissolves completely, replaced by a small, growing smile that completely overpowers my irritability. All of this happens spontaneously and virtually instantaneously and without thinking I turn around and tell the woman “Thank you for the smile.” She smiles even more…she then tells me that she has met me before once…I didn’t remember.
It doesn’t matter that she knew me. The point is that I didn’t know her at the time when she smiled. To me it was just someone in an adjacent line being nice. And it took just that one smile to make all the difference.
I think as a race, we Indians just don’t smile enough. I don’t know why that is; maybe we are afraid of rejection if the other person does not smile back or perhaps we are just not a “smiley” race.
I hate “sayings” and “quotes”, but this unknown ditty is so apt.
“Smiling is infectious,
You can catch it like the flu.
Someone smiled at me today,
And I started smiling too.”

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