Goodmorning. Not Literally

I meet a man walking down the path on the river on an almost daily basis. He always wears black. Lets pretend I didn’t notice  that, because it would be bordering on the rude or inquisitive. The problem is that we see each other several times a week. He may or may not be going down to check on his potatoes, but it is unlikely. What to do ?. First concession is to raise your eyebrows slightly to acknowledge you’ve seen each other, and then scuttle on past before a more anxiety producing communication ensues. This can go on for several days, or even weeks, but finally can come to be seen as rude, and therefore personal. This would never do.

Time to wheel out the second concession. Raise eyebrows,  but now sort of nod the head as well, as if to say, “Good Morning”. Now hold on. Do not actually say “Good Morning” under any circumstances. This would be regarded as forward and eccentric. Neither of which are characteristics of mine as you know. Mind you, after a time, if you keep meeting ,a verbal “Good Morning” might be required. What comes after that reeks of Armageddon. so lets hope that never happens, or so I thought.

Under natural circumstances we reach out to people because we must. We work together because we have to. Pooling our abilities is central to survival and this is implicitly understood. In the city, this fundamental connection is largely avoided to the point of extinction except in the home or workplace,  because space is at a premium.

Today, as I went for my morning walk I noticed that the river is still very high and my normal path was blocked off. as I thought about it, my man in black arrived from the opposite direction. Spurred on by curiosity about the river I stopped him. “Sorry to bother you”, I said, “Have you ever seen the river as high as this”. He went off on a brief but informative explanation about the water levels, and as he talked, I noticed he had the kindest eyes. Sometimes the pressured conventions of city life wall us off from seeing what is important.


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, creative writing, Environment, Life, life2, Relationships and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Goodmorning. Not Literally

  1. catterel says:

    Oh, Ducks, how we are shaped by our culture! I’ve lived in rural communities in Switzerland for so long now that Swiss habits have rubbed off and I nod, raise eyebrows and smile at all and sundry. It would be considered the height of bad manners here not to greet each and every person that crosses your path, even when hiking in the mountains or, as in your case, walking along the river bank. BUT it doesn’t necessarily lead to any intrusion on your private sphere, which is, I think what keeps us English (especially in the south) from even saying good morning – fear. In the Midlands and north of England, I’ve noticed that people are much more likely to speak, and I have had life stories poured into my ears while waiting for a bus. Now you have established contact with the Man in Black,you may even find he becomes your friend!


  2. Abby says:

    This is interesting, and I’ve written something similar before about being annoyed at people who don’t say “hi” back. We all live in our own sheltered worlds day to day, but I think it’s those simple connections with people we might see every day–even if we’re not personally in touch–that give meaning to the whole human experience. OK. That’s a bit too deep, but the point is that polite conversation can sometimes bomb. But other times it can spark a discussion that leaves you a little bit lighter, and sometimes with a brand new acquaintance 😉


  3. This example of social interaction intrigues me. I often walk to work and make a point of saying hello, good morning, whatever. In my experience more people respond than choose not to. As I walk the same route every day some hello’s have progressed to short conversations, which is lovely. It is one of the annoyances in my life that some people choose not to say hello back. What does that say about them? What does that say about me. A few years ago I set my New Year’s Resolution to smile more. That might sound a bit daft but it was as much about actively being positive as well as interacting with other people. So it was not so much about me looking happier because I was smiling and more finding ways to engage and share a smile. What I discovered was there are endless opportunities to smile AND the best bit is people respond with one back. In the past few months I hatched a plan. For those folk (and yes I pass them everyday) I just began to say ‘morning’ a little louder – at the moment the response stands at about 70% – not bad. I’m keeping trying with the others though. I’m nothing if not a trier and hey, it’s nice to be nice 😉


    • I agree. I’ve lived most of my life in the country where, as you say, people say hello to each other and chat all the time. It took a bit of used to being in an urban environment where space became so important. I am trying to be more “smily” like you. Lets see how it goes


  4. This is great.

    I have alwaysnoticed how much easier it is to offer a greeting to someone if we both have a dog at our sides. It seems the most natural thing to do, but take the ogs away and…

    I sometimes purposely decide to say “Good morning” to someone as an experiment, be ause I rhink we area bit stiff and starchy here in the UK. it’sinteresting; some people look at me as though I’ve lost the plot, others sound totally shocked that someone could do this but they do respond pleasantly and very, very few respond. If it were a natural thing. Very interesting.

    Also, on a more recent thought regarding this subject, now I am somewhat disabled and walk with a four wheeled walker, people are a lot more likely o respond pleasantly when I greet them. It’s quite fascinating really, and I love the ending to you piece regarding” the kindest eyes”.



  5. Please forgive my typos. I should check more carefully.


  6. babs50nfab says:

    Dogs definitely make it easier. On my own I tend to be in my own head when I’m out and about. Not that I don’t enjoy a friendly hello with a stranger but somehow, particularly in the city, it’s easier to shut it all out and walk.


    • I agree dogs open up a whole world of interaction. I’m rather chummy with dogs, and some of them regard me as their social equal. I often start making odd whoofing noises as I pass them. I am more cautious with their owners


  7. Al says:

    Anytime you stop and initiate a conversation, both people’s lives are touched in a positive way, whether they realize it then or not. My proof…..this blog post.


  8. Works in the grocery store too :>) After all there’s no risk; nothing to lose and everything to gain.


  9. Oh, and where i come from we say, “Waddaya at!”


  10. Kirri White says:

    That’s sad! Just say Hello already people 🙂
    On the whole, we still say Gidday to most people walking down the street in Australia (or at least in the three cities I have lived in). I do recall, when I was in London – I fell over in my clumsy high heels on Queen Victoria Street, near Cheapside and I was astounded that not one person came to my help – in fact it was like I invisible – people were purposely avoiding me!

    So glad you made the effort. I wonder what’s going to happen next time you see the man in black?


    • There you have it Kirri. I came a cross a man without shoes lying across a station entrance, and people just walked over him. Extraordinary. Especially if you’ve lived most of you’ve lived most of your life in the country. Extraordinary and sad. And yes I did deal with it


  11. It is funny how we have this societal thing that we don’t talk to strangers. ANd then when we do, it can be so nice!


  12. In an effort to respect another’s privacy, we often miss an opportunity to connect kindly with someone. The trick is knowing when it’s okay to reach out. I guess the other person will let us know if it’s okay to enter their space and when it’s time to exit.

    Nicely done, as usual, Peter.


  13. nelle says:

    I’m glad you took a step toward conversation, and you came away with something memorable. Well done.


  14. Caroline says:

    I was set this as a task when I went to life coaching. To greet everyone I met on my Sunday morning walk round the local lake!! Amazing reactions. And all positive!


  15. Lafemmeroar says:

    It’s amazing what we notice when we go beyond the usual “hello” or “good morning” … this post had a certain romanticism about it … very nice 🙂 and tweeting it now 🙂


  16. Ducky,
    I sooooooooooooo love this story. You are beautiful. You are like a small prayer to me. X


  17. backonmyown says:

    I think I will call this post a lesson in cultural differences. Maybe it’s growing up in the South here in the US, but I naturally and easily smile and speak to everyone I meet. I’ve noticed, though, that some in my neighborhood avoid looking at me when we meet on the sidewalk. (This is a diverse, international development.) I find that when I simply say “Good morning” most respond with at least a smile. A few, I suspect, talk on their cell phones to avoid interacting with others. Very enlightening post, Ducks.


    • I agree, their are enormous cultural differences Pat. IN many ways the situation reflects man conflicting needs fofr intimacy and space. In the south eat of the Uk, where space is at a premium, social intimacy takes aback seat on most opccasions. There are exeptions


  18. Vital Simplicity says:

    This one made me smile, CD. I think my face just cracked (eek!) Thanks for the reminder to put outselves out there. I like that you noticed his kind eyes. I will go into the world today slightly more conscious and willing on account of this post. Big hugs!


  19. Very moving – I try to make it a point to smile and nod at people when I’m going for walks along the river. It’s nice to feel connected sometimes. We’re all in this together!


  20. eof737 says:

    Good for you to connect and engage… Sometimes we invent stories about total strangers without ever giving them the benefit of the doubt. Good job! 🙂


  21. Isn’t it amazing – if we ‘dare’ to open up to the unknown, how often what seems a simple gift becomes a treasure! This is a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing!


  22. hakea says:

    This is why I love our Aussie greeting “G’day”. It’s friendly but aloof. There is no commitment to further engagement, but leaves other possibilities open.

    Nice post.


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