I'm on a Clint Eastwood jag. I watched Grand Torino recently and I had a memory of growing up in Daly City, CA.
There is a scene in the beginning of Grand Torino, where a couple of African American guys have a beef with an Asian girl. Her Caucasian friend attempts to step in and is advised to move on.
These days, that's the politically correct way of saying it. Here's how it would have gone in 1974;
Black-hey Yellow, we want to talk to you.
Yellow-yeah, what do you want?
White-Hey! Yellow is with me, leave her alone!
Black-Whitey, if you want to get out of here in one piece just look down and keep going.
And that's the way it was in the multi-colored neighborhood where I grew up. Black and Brown and Yellow where always at war and if you were White the best thing you could do was look down and keep going.
This tactic worked well for me at Serramonte High School until I graduated in 1979.
But then, I had to get job.
I was lucky enough to land a job at Another Roadside Attraction, at Serramonte Shopping Center just down the hill from the high school. It was one of the first cafes to grace the scene in what is now an common place occurrence. We served Capricorn Coffee and Just Deserts in a world of MJB and doughnuts. I was hired as a counter clerk. I arrived at 7AM everyday to brew designer coffee and serve "natural (today if would be 'organic')" pastries. But I was frustrated at the fact that I couldn't get a better shift. Eventually, I confronted my boss and asked why I had the lousy shift. He paused and said, "Because you don't smile at the customers."
Oh! My safety mechanism for survival in Daly City wasn't going to work in the real world. I decided to heed the generous advice of my boss and give smiling a try. Within weeks I was promoted to waitress and had a great lunch-time shift with lots of tips. I even learned to be the one to smile first (perish the thought!) and keep smiling even when I had a cranky customer...tips! Or the "Smile honey" customer...no problem pal... tips!
Remember my story from SF Beledi when my teacher, Masha, told me to smile or get off the stage? That was actually before I worked as a waitress. But even with my real-world-waitress-smile-honey training, as I entered the world of teaching and performing on my own, I would often fall prey to "concentration face." I simply would forget to smile because I wasn't yet in the flow of letting the music move me. I was still thinking. Time for more strategy, if I wanted to attract and keep students and audiences...you guessed it...smile! It wasn't hard. The tip was still tied to the sale and I could see the results. I had to force it for a while, but as soon as it became part of my dance muscle memory, I was in.
So now when you see me in class or on stage, that smile is real. But it's not just for the tips anymore, it for the reward of lessons learned.