Nancy Roman

Helping Out

Have you ever gotten one of those emails from Amazon, asking you to help answer a question?  One that says something like: “A customer has asked a question about a product that you have purchased in the past. Can you help this person with an answer?”

I’ve been asked about the fragrance of a face cream or the thickness of an iphone case. I’m happy to share what I know.

So this week, I had a question of my own. And the response I got was surprising. And in a small way – profound.

This Summer, I found a new hobby. Or rather, I rediscovered an old one. I went as a guest to a watercolor painting class. I loved it. I took another and another, and then bought new paints (from France, no less). And I’ve been painting twice a week since.

You may have seen a few recent post of mine with watercolor illustrations. They are the product of my reinvigorated love for painting.


And I’ve been watching amazing watercolorists on YouTube. People describe being bored as ‘watching paint dry’. But  OMG, I can watch artists paint all day. I am truly fascinated by watching paint dry.

But when you watch a certain genre of videos with any regularity, you start to get ads. I’m very good at ignoring ads, but sometimes something sinks into my consciousness.

I saw some ads (actually the same ad dozens of times) for watercolor brush pens. These are like felt tip pens, only with a brush head and watercolor paint rather than opaque colored ink. The commercials made them look pretty nice.

So I found them on Amazon. They were relatively inexpensive and the reviews were good. But I had a question. How long did they last? I wondered whether the brushes might dry up right in the middle of the sky, so to speak.

So I posed the question.

And I got five answers.

And I was amused (and just slightly annoyed) that three of the five answers were “I don’t know.”

Why in the world would someone take the time to log in to answer that they didn’t have an answer?

The more I thought about it though, the more I was intrigued. Why WOULD someone do that?

And I have come up with two reasons – which can readily coexist and both be true:

First, I think that people want to be part of the conversation. They want to be heard.

And second, I think that people truly want to help, even if they just can’t.

Which is really sweet.

So I have decided to give  a few more people that opportunity  – in a small way. It’s something my husband does frequently, and I’ve always thought that he did so out of a combination of friendliness and nosiness. But now I see it is both of those things, but more.

When I am in the supermarket, I am going to notice what the person in front of me is buying. And I will say, “I see that you are buying the kind of soap (or soup) that I have been considering. Have you bought it before? Do you like it?”

And so I will give one person a little opportunity to be heard – and be helpful.

And I just might find some good shit I would have missed.


My watercolor of my best friend.





  1. dogonaroot1

    I used to do this when I worked at Costco. While I was checking a member out, if I saw a particular item they were purchasing that I hadn’t tried previously I would often ask them if they had tried it before and if they had, they were quite eager to tell me all about it. It was a genuinely sincere inquiry but I soon discovered the member would become much friendlier and the entire process of checking them out became less stressful for them and more fun for me.


    • What a good example of what I was trying to say! I see that with my husband all the time. People are really glad be asked their opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this idea. People want to be helpful… I know I do. And even if “I don’t know,” it could be the beginning of a nice conversation.

    Lovely watercolor!!! You are getting really good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think most people want to be helpful and enjoy a simple bit of conversation. (And thanks – I am really enjoying painting.)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. SuzyM

    You are a natural. I especially love the watercolor you did of your best friend! Isn’t it fun to find a hobby that you really enjoy?!! Please keep sharing your watercolors with us.
    P.S. I love striking up a small conversation when waiting in a line, shopping for makeup, etc. You never know what you might learn.


    • Thanks. My little guy is a great model. — and oh yes, it’s fun to discuss makeup!


  4. Very nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your conclusions – and the portrait of your best friend.
    (And I really am curious about those brush/pens now…)


    • They are Arteza brand brush pens, and I went ahead and ordered them… I will let you know if I like them.


  6. Your paintings are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I am so enjoying it. I completely lose myself when I am painting. So different from writing, which makes me so “into” myself.


  7. Great idea re: the poll. Love the water color of your dog. It is really a nice one.


    • I think everyone likes to feel that their opinion matters, and that someone listens to what they have to say. And thanks… I am really happy with how that painting turned out.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Conversation about products purchased by customers was fun and a conversation openner when I was a cashier at a local grocery store. I’d look at the products being purchased and try to guess what they were going to create when they got home. ” OOOh, looks like a nice pot roast is on the menu”…”Pineapple Upside down cake tonight?” “Nothing like a good Chicken Noodle Soup on a chilly night”…Almost every day I got a group of firemen that would come in for their lunch and dinner fixings. They had their bankrroll of five dollar bills collected from the firemen back at the firehouse and everyday a different group came in to shop. I loved guessing what was being served at the firehouse. If it was something I liked I’d jokingly invite myself and offer my five dollar bill. Made loads of good friends and customers that way.


    • I am beginning to understand that this type of conversation started is common – and good!


  9. OMG! You have great talent. Especially love Theo. I did watercolor for a while but I’m not anywhere near as talented. Fun media though. My favorite thing is to invite myself to dinner when the person in front of me at checkout has a lot of things I love (and a lot of them). It always gets a smile. Sometimes they tell me what the occasion is. Never got a grumpy answer.


    • Thanks! Try watching some videos if you want some painting inspiration. I love Nitin Singh – an Indian watercolorist. He has such freedom in his paintings. (And I wonder what would happen if I asked someone who was buying wine if they wanted to open it in the parking lot?)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I took a class in Chinese water color and that was fascinating. My hands aren’t as steady as they used to be and for me holding the brush was awkward. As for the wine, depends on the person!


  10. I have discovered, much to my delight, that these kinds of ‘helping one another’ discourses are ‘business as usual’ out here in the country. People are sooo friendly and many will actually suggest items or product lines to purchase (or give ‘how to advice’) without you even asking. Clerks in stores COME UP TO YOU (instead of running and hiding) just to ask if you need anything or to suggest products. It’s amazing and I’ve learned a lot about any number of things I didn’t know (or wouldn’t have tried) if they hadn’t been so open and generous with their knowledge. I even made a recommendation myself (to someone considering barbecue sauces in the grocery story) the other day. Weren’t we all (at some point in history) all so open to sharing? (And your talent with watercolours is AMAZING!)


  11. Paula

    I always answer these requests, because I have received great guidance from reviews, and I want to pass it on. FYI, you are *talented* and should continue painting at every possible opportunity.


  12. Ray G

    I’ve got to wonder: how many of the in-person dialogues about things being bought are (even subconsciously) attempts at gentle flirting? Especially between the sexes. Not to accuse hubby of doing anything wrong, of course.


  13. Your paintings are marvelous! There are so many artistic fields to wander through — painting seems a great match for you!


  14. Your paintings are amazing! 🙂


  15. Your watercolour of Theo is brilliant – you have a wonderful talent! And I like your idea of polling grocery-store customers – I’m sure it will initiate some interesting (and probably amusing) conversations.


  16. Donna W.

    Nancy, You are just as gifted in water color painting as you are in writing … truly! I don’t have a handle on the proper words to compliment you; but know this – it’s big and you’re up there with the best! Wow … Beautiful paintings …. Hope you use your own paintings to illustrate future novels. Each one tells a story!


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