4 January 2019

"Hello"

When walking along a busy city street, I never say "hello" to the strangers I pass. However, out in the countryside it's a different matter.

Frequently, I find myself plodding in splendid isolation along little trodden paths but then occasionally other ramblers will appear in view, heading towards me.  When this happens, I always try to make eye contact before smiling and saying "hello". 

I would estimate that 70% of the people I greet in this way respond in kind with a cheery "Good day", "How do you do" or "Hello". Sometimes we might even stop and chat for a while before carrying on. I have met several interesting people in that way.

But three out of ten people I pass by say nothing. They blank me entirely making me feel like The Invisible Man or a leper who has just escaped from his colony. When this happens I will often say, "Well don't say hello then!" when they are level with me and once when I was in a foul mood, I confess that I added, "You ignorant sod!"

Having contemplated this matter on several occasions, I have compiled a mixture of conclusions about why some walkers refuse to return friendly greetings. Firstly, they might be extremely arrogant or toffee-nosed. Secondly, they might be very shy or bashful. Thirdly, they might be wary of six foot strangers - fearing assault or worse still - personal interaction that could lead to some sort of undesired social  tangle. Fourthly, they might be listening to music through earphones hidden by hair or woolly hats.

When I see someone approaching I have no idea what their personal story is. They could be feeling suicidal. Maybe a family member has just died. Perhaps they are suffering in other unimagined ways. That's one of the reasons I choose to smile and say "hello". My greeting proves that they have been noticed and that we are fellow members of the human race. But it should work the other way too. When they see me coming they don't know what my story is either.

Saying "hello" is a gesture that shows humanity and a belief in our togetherness as we sail through space. We are all travellers making our way along the paths of life, experiencing ups and downs. Surely, the least we can say is "hello".

30 comments:

  1. I think it's great to speak to strangers you pass when out on a walk. In the area where I grew up, to NOT speak or acknowledge a greeting would be seen as terribly rude. I remember an old boyfriend of mine making fun of my tiny hometown because people waiting in cars at traffic intersections will often wave to other drivers as they pass. He thought it was ridiculous that strangers passing in cars would wave to him and that it was a sign of some sort of mental deficiency in the people. :( I always thought it was kind of nice.

    That being said, you just never know what is going on with a person who doesn't respond. There have been times in my life when I was under such a fog of stress and anxiety I might not have even noticed if a stranger greeted me. It's probably best, in most cases, to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

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    1. Maybe I pass a lot of deaf and short-sighted people.

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  2. I agree entirely. found having a dog made people more willing to start chatting - even in a big city like London. Maybe you should get a pooch,YP. There are plenty in the rescue centres at the moment.

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    1. If I got a dog it would have to be from a taxidermist. Perhaps I could put wheels on it.

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  3. You are right to say that a quick hello in greeting is a personable thing YP....but also right to say that people may have reason for not answering.....better to say it and not get a response though I feel.

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    1. Thanks for your point of view Libby. It will stick in my mind.

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  4. Their not responding has nothing to do with you - that is all about them and maybe their deficiencies. You are right to extend a human moment - you never know when it is saving someone.

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  5. In a rural area I do the same thing. It just seems wrong to walk past someone when there's no other visible person for miles around and not say anything. At the very least I smile at them. Have you noticed any pattern in those who don't respond? I can see, for example, why a single woman might be less likely to respond than another man or people in a group.

    That said, in an urban environment I never say anything to anyone. It's the New Yorker in me. I keep my head down!

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    1. I have noticed that lone women are less likely to say "hello" than lone men.

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  6. I think that just as it's your choice to speak, it should be the other person's choice not to. Period. Usually it's not hard to tell if someone is open to a greeting - they avoid eye contact.

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    1. Like Steve says - "It just seems wrong to walk past someone when there's no other visible person for miles around and not say anything" so I am with him on this one. Courtesy should be common currency.

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  7. Well, hello young man. How's tha doin then?

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    1. My mother told me not to talk to girls like you!

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  8. Having a dog definitely is a help to getting to know people and pass the time of day. I have also found that people round here are certainly more inclined to speak than in the suburbs of cities where I have lived most of my life, although sadly, not the younger people so much, such as those with young children going to and from the local school.

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    1. Hello Jenny! Dogs certainly can break the ice... but it's not for me. Some folk are dog people and some are not and I am certainly in the second camp. I hope you had a nice sojourn in Northumberland.

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  9. We here in the South, in the US are far more apt to greet strangers than not. Another thing I love about Cozumel is that if you smile and say, "Hola!" to someone on the street, they will return the greeting with the most beautiful warm smile. I think it is a perfect way for humans to connect, albeit briefly, to say, "I see you."

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    1. Yes. That's what "hello" can often mean - I see you! You are somebody.

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  10. I smile and say "Hello" and/or "G'day!" - and at times, the even more formal...a smiling "Good morning!" to all and sundry, animals included, when I'm out at my local supermarket and neighbouring shops.

    Those who don't respond in kind never fail to amaze me...and, to be honest, at times, annoy me.

    What do they think, I wonder? Do they think I'm about to assault them?

    It takes very little to share a smile and a "Hello!". The giving and receiving of same in return is heartwarming. It's how life should be - how we should be! No lengthy conversation is demanded or required...just a pleasant pleasantry.

    I have to laugh to myself sometimes at the reaction of those who don't react. Next time I come across such a sour-grape..for the fun of it, I might just yell out "Boo!" right in their face....before I'm carted away! :)

    Don't stop smiling and saying "Hello!", Yorkie...the feeling is too good to lose. :)

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    1. We may not be like-minded in everything Lee but on this point we are united. It's nice to be nice.

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  11. This has been a rant of mine from time to time. when I ride bike or walk I say hello to people. Some people ignore yore. after a while I leave them alone. when saying hello you can quite often stop and have a conversation that becomes very worthwhile.

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    1. If I met you in the countryside I would definitely say hello. I might even give you a man hug - but no tongues!

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  12. I nod and say hello to people when out walking, talk to their dogs, any horse, cow or sheep along the way, and even the bees or butterflies. And yes I haven't been certified yet! I think it is an acknowledgment of the wonderful world we live in.

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    1. We are here at the same location. We exist.

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  13. As I always have a dog with me when out walking it is quite normal here to stop and chat to other dog owners, known or not ! I have made lots of friends over the years.....2 very special ones. through talking , firstly about the dogs and then you start walking with them and other conversation naturally follows. I love it.
    Your second paragraph reminded me of the time in the early 80s when I was walking along a path in Harpenden ...no one else coming towards me but Eric Morecambe. Do I look at him, ignore him, rush up and say how wonderful he is ? It turned out that as we passed he smiled at me and said hello, and I smiled. His wife Joan still lives in their house here and I see her regularly in Waitrose. Sometimes have a little chat as I met her at a kids football match many years ago and kept her company as the organisers were busy. She had turned up as President of the Colts and been left to her own devices. Which I thought was appalling. I had met her briefly a week or 2 before so went over and spent a lovely half hour walking round with her. I will talk to anyone given half a chance !!

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    1. That's a good story Frances and I have no doubt at all that it is completely true and unembellished. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. I guess that's folks for you. I don't see why they wouldn't say hello if there were more than one of them but if I was on my own I think I would be wary of talking to a single man.
    That's just the way things are today though, I doubt I would have felt like this in days of yore. lol
    Briony
    x

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    1. If you saw me coming along the path you would probably scream and run away - confusing The Yorkshire Pudding with The Yorkshire Ripper!

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  15. When I met the big guy I noticed that he always said hello to everyone which I thought quite nice. Then he explained that he does this in part to relieve the anxiety of others. He's 6'5" and quite intimidating looking, so a nice hello helps. I usually just smile but I have begun to say hello or good morning as well. When I was younger I was far to shy and self conscious to say anything.

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  16. In Arizona, when we see people on the trails, we say hello, and 98% of the time, they'll respond. Sometimes there is a brief chat. In Washington, near Seattle, people will go out of their way not to see you on the trails. They walk with heads down, looking to the side, it's weird. We generally speak anyway, just to see what will happen.

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