Bouquet of the Week: It Pays to Be Nice
As part of our recurring Bouquet of the Week series, Garden Collage continues to present a weekly inspirational bouquet that incorporates intriguing new elements into the traditional practice of flower arranging. This week, Garden Collage styles a bouquet after an interesting interaction with a street vendor…
While shopping for GC’s Super Bowl bouquets earlier this week my colleague and I encountered a flower salesman whose grouchy disposition made it clear that he had been in a bad mood long before we arrived. We were in the flower district, on W. 28th street in Manhattan. In a thoroughfare lined with stores vending silk- and real flowers, he was one of the few street vendors selling cut flowers– so naturally, we stopped to have a look.
Our interaction was minimal, really, but the street vender was ornery from the start: as I gestured to an unusual looking flower and asked him what it was, he immediately chastised me for leaning “too close” to his lilies, and reminded me that if I “broke” the flower, I would have to pay for it.
I was standing a health distance away from said flowers. Nonetheless, I apologized and repeated my question– “What flower is this? It’s beautiful!” and he barked at me begrudgingly, “I don’t know! Are you going to buy anything?”
I grew up in a family where being nice to other people was instilled in me from a young age, and it has become an aspect of the lens through which I now view the world. I also worked for a small business in college, which taught me the value of pleasant customer service– but I don’t believe in responding to rudeness with more rudeness; that just creates more negative energy.
Instead of responding to this vendor’s aggressiveness with spite or by running away, I instead chose to do something I wish more people would do: I decided to be nice.
This, of course, is easier said then done, especially when your blood is boiling because you feel like you’ve been unjustly dismissed when you were merely asking a question. It appears that this particular flower vendor was just bitter about something beyond me or my colleague, and showed a demonstrable desire to make a sale (which I sensed based on his petulant demeanor was an increasingly rare occurrence for him). I could tell that he knew he was being kind of pill, and that this was the point in the conversation when most customers would run away. So, I decided to do something nice– I bought those flowers, and I did so with a smile.
“I’m sorry I leaned across your lilies,” I said, though I didn’t really feel the need to apologize. The second I pulled out my wallet, his demeanor seemed to soften and I could tell he was mulling over something in his mind. “No, I’m sorry–” he said, expounding on the fact that he was just upset because a lot of people “look but don’t buy”, and that further, he was recovering from an operation that he used his flower sales to fund. In a small way, that broke my heart, though I was still a little put off by his initial aggression. Finally, his mask seemed to break and he looked towards his flower stand– at first reluctantly, and then deliberately– and took out a bunch of beautiful green mums and added it to my bag. “For you,” he said, offering the flowers to me for free as something as a peace offering. I took the the flowers home and used them to style this week’s Bouquet of the Week, which you see above and below. Free flowers are lovely, but that was not my motivation here; in a world where kindness begets kindness, it pays to be nice.