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THINK TALK: How a total stranger changed me without saying a word

mindaviews thinktalk

MATALAM, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 11 July) – Yes. This was non-fiction, unaltered personal experience. But how I came to realize this was even more interesting.

In 2019, pre-COVID time, I was strolling along in one of my favorite malls in Davao. I was walking in slow calculated steps as I was just whiling away some idle time. Malls, to me, are perfect places for this kind of diversion because they are cool, spacious and you are surrounded by people milling around, some of them shoppers, and the rest may just be like me. You want to be alone but the salesladies constantly remind you they are just there if you want anything.

I thought the best way to walk by was the grocery area where high fixed stalls are neatly arranged in lines and columns. If tombs in cemeteries could rise as high as those stalls, then you can imagine what I mean.

I was just there moving aimlessly though there was a lot of stuff in my mind. Sometimes, I would find myself following some few people pushing carts; other times, I see a few salesladies fixing some goods and putting them into place as some would-be customers or pretending to be customers have disarranged them.

Suddenly, something came to my consciousness: “Why would I not count people and compare who among the male and female species have more representatives in one area!” Say, for example, the grocery store is one area, the shoes section and the food court as other areas. Of course, I have to exclude the male and female accessories department for obvious reasons. This makes wasting my time a little exciting.

I went to the shoes department but there were not too many people there. Besides, the area was not a good place for my kind of study. Shoes made for females will naturally have female customers and shoes made for males… err.. NO, there are a few females around in the area where shoes made exclusively for the males were displayed. I would like to know what brought those few young girls there and so I talked to one of them: “That pair of shoes is good but that’s a tennis shoes; do you play tennis?” “Yes, sir,” she replied. “But that is a male’s shoes” I exclaimed in a low voice. “Yes, sir but it’s more comfortable; most shoes for women have narrow entrance.” Okay.

I went next to the food court area. It’s almost 12 noon now and there were a lot of people around. I noticed that almost all of the dining tables were occupied by couples, with very few couples having a child or two with them. I concluded that this place harbors equal number of male and female customers.

Finally, I went back to the grocery department area. It was the place in the mall that has the most number of people. I do not have to count because, as per visual observation, it was obvious that there were more females than males in that area.

There were still so much time left of my idle time, and so, I just have to keep myself busy with something else. As I was still in the grocery department, I thought it might be interesting to find out which age bracket among the females has more. Roughly, I categorized them into teenagers, 20-40 years old, and 41 and above. There was no way I would know their exact age except to ask each one of them but it was something I didn’t do for obvious reason. Silly! And I would be perfectly annoying to them.

And so my only means of verification is to test how good I am at guessing women’s age based on their facial looks alone. That was a tough test for me. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if I were doing this on the males as their faces were not laden with make ups that conceal their true age.

As I was looking at the lady’s faces to evaluate each one of them, some of them would look at me once and turn their heads away immediately as if I heard them say, “keep out you maniacal thug.” A few of them would lower their gaze and pretend we never had an eye contact. These are certainly the gentler ones. I kept moving on with my kind of survey method and got the same reactions every time.

Then, I came upon this lady in her late 30s- maybe she’s 37 or 38 years old. I was expecting to get the same reaction from her, but NO, she was much different from the rest. She looked straight towards me, smiled and nodded in affirmation. That candid smile and accommodating nod left me in awe and admiration. When I nodded back to reciprocate and acknowledge her kindness and gentleness, she was still looking at me while slowly towing away her two kids who are still in their school uniforms. The kids must be aged 4 and 9, I supposed.

Anyway, here is what I got from that survey work in the grocery store: out of the entire people there which comprised of more than two-third females, 20% are teenagers, 30% are more than 41 years old and 50% are in the 20-40 age bracket.

But one of them formed an immortal image in my mind. She communicated to me a lot without saying a word. It made me think like she was very beautiful with that kind of attitude and persona. With a lot of people there, she was the only one who struck me right out from drowsiness as I was beginning to entertain doubts and starting to lose trust and confidence in people.

By doing my kind of survey, I would look suspicious in the first place. That people would be suspicious of me as evinced by their reactions was perfectly understandable. But why did it happen that one person, a young mother, was so different from the rest? Could she be an angel, or a single mom? I have no idea. But she made me a complete person again, whoever she was. And she changed me totally without saying a word, except that magic of kindness and gentleness she exuded magnanimously in all candor and humility.

Now I am myself again – one who should trust people before anything else. One who believes in people first before making any conclusion. That young motherly lady taught me to always see the best in people and to look for it if it does not show because it is always there no matter what. 

Like their age, it may just be concealed by their own make ups.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Maugan P. Mosaid holds a doctorate degree in rural development. He is a freelance writer, planning consultant, and teaches Statistics and Methods of Research in the graduate school. He can be contacted at mauganmosaid6@gmail.com)

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