Growing up, my family joked about my mom’s “shopping walk”—the particular pace she set when running errands. Just slightly slower than Olympic race walking, this pace was more like a slow jog for a small child. Okay, not quite, but close enough.
For my mom, it wasn’t just about getting the errands done efficiently. It was about walking with purpose.
As these things often do, my mom’s shopping walk rubbed off on me. And I’ve discovered a curious by-product of walking with purpose through a store: people mistake me for an employee. All the time. To the point that I can be wearing a black jacket at Target and people still think I work there 🤔
Most of these people don’t ask, “Do you work here?” They simply start in on their question, assuming I am an employee. Often, about halfway through, they realize I’m not and stumbled to a stop. Other times, they ask the whole question before realizing their error.
At first, this phenomenon confused me. I don’t wear a name tag and my cart is almost always within arm’s reach. I think I look like every other customer.
Then I realized: we’re all looking for help. Sometimes it’s with finding where they’ve moved the frozen peas. But most of the time it’s not. Consciously or otherwise, we’re constantly scanning our surroundings, trying to find the person who most looks like they know what they’re doing to give us some sense of direction in our own lives.
The lesson is two-fold: if you’re going to walk like you have a purpose, actually have a purpose. That way, when people inevitably follow you, you’ll be headed somewhere worth going. And when you need help, when you’re not sure where to go next, don’t settle for the first person you see.
Because chances are, if they’re wearing a black jacket at Target (literally or metaphorically), they probably don’t work there.