About 5 years ago I came up with an idea for a social experiment that turned out to completely change the quality of my daily life. It was a small scale operation, a birthday gift to myself of 1000 custom made stickers. Remember the smile-hearts made in the 1970s from Irma? It helps if you do. I used the heart and printed my name along with a message to smile to me. It was one of those things that really pissed off a lot of the advertising people I talked to. Mainly because there was no "real" agenda and no profit to be made. It just seemed plain stupid to them, and besides, as one pointed out, the stickers were not even fuzzy like the original. But I was quite happy with my stupid experiment. In an attempt to execute a mass hypnosis, I scattered the stickers all over town, and then waited for people to smile when they heard my name.
But after a month of waiting, I realised that I needed to change my approach. So I placed the sticker on the lapel of my coat. And on my dress, and on my bag, and on every layer of clothing in my wardrobe. The first thing that happened was that I met a lot of happy people. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling at me, little smiles, big smiles, happy smiles, genuine smiles. Sometimes I would be in a crappy mood, and forget about the sticker, and someone would send me a smile and make me feel instantly better.
The other thing that happened was equally fantastic. The people I met every day, on the post office, at the bakery and the vegetable market would (smile and) call me by name. It only seemed polite to ask them their name too, now that they knew mine, and so I got to know the names of a lot of the people I met in my daily life. And I am amazed at what a difference it has made. When I go the post office today, they know if there is a package waiting for me even before I do, because they remember seeing my name on one. And this is also how I came to know my friends from my local vegetable market. My sticker is still stuck to the register, and whenever I enter the store they yell to all the customers to smile to Sandra. Okay, so sometimes you are not in that mood, but more than often you get there real fast. All in all I consider my social experiment a big success. I still have some stickers left, but at this point they work as I hoped: sticker or no sticker, people smile to Sandra.
This picture I found on flickr, it was taken the day after my birthday back in 2005.