It’s amazing and refreshing to read all the polite comments! It’s even unprecedented in my online experience. Are the readers trying to channel their inner Paul Ford? Anyhow, I appreciate your piece, and I’m glad you gave the woman with the cyst another chance, whose conversation genuinely seemed more interesting to me in fact than 30 minutes of hearing about celebrities wearing jewelry. However, though it works for you, I don’t find it polite to say the same thing to all people about how hard one’s job sounds unless one is sincere.
I’ve had people say “that’s the hardest job in the world” when I tell them I am currently “staying home” with my kids. I realize they are just trying “to be polite”, but it seems like hyperbole at best and makes me want to politely move on to another topic or person rather than dispute them ever so politely.
Anyway, my mother used to acknowledge almost every stranger around her in the waiting room, on the street, etc. with warm eye contact and a friendly smile if not a spoken greeting or a nod. I innately feel more comfortable looking at my book or phone, but since she died, I have made a much greater effort to emulate this small politeness or kindness. To the few who are not looking at their phone, these brief connections can feel special and meaningful.