A New Normal
August 25, 2022
August 25, 2022
It may not be typical to shout for joy when someone walks into your restaurant, but it certainly can be normal. And I'm living proof that it can sell a lot of Chinese food.
Whenever Norman Peterson (played by George Wendt) would walk into the bar on the set of the TV show Cheers, everyone in the room would shout, "NORM!" By the late '80s, this became known as "The Norm Effect"—the particular glow you get when you're in a place where everybody knows your name and makes you feel welcome as soon as you step in the door.
I have a similar experience when I order Chinese food from my favorite restaurant: As soon as Vicky Shi, the proprietor, spots me, she enthusiastically calls out, "Hi, Deb!" She knows what I'll be ordering. She asks after the kids and the business. She makes me feel that I've made her day just by walking in to Hong Wah. Of course, I'm not the only one who feels the Norm Effect when I'm there: Vicky conveys to each customer that we're not just welcome, but visible. In the darkest days of the pandemic, she became a kind of takeout lifeline for the hundreds of us fans who craved not only her food but the style of personal connection that she always brings to the experience.
So whenever I'd find myself craving either broccoli with garlic sauce or the Norm Effect, I'd pick up the phone and order takeout. But then I realized I could myself generate the Norm Effect anytime I wanted to feel that click of connection. After all, the joy is not one-sided: Vicky feels it too! You may have noticed that my theme in this column is often some variant of "Be the Karma." We can all teach our kids to be the Vicky for the people we encounter every day out in the world. Figure out who they are and reflect that back at them. Glow at them a little. Show them they've made your day just by wandering into your orbit.
Let's make this the New Normal.