Saying hello to a grey-haired gentleman that I walk past every morning seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do. It was after all a beautiful morning. I had slept well, eaten a hearty breakfast and was enjoying my stroll. I had I estimate walked past the same gentleman a good thirty or so times by this point and so not to offer a cheery ‘good morning’ just seemed churlish. He in turn opened his mouth and met mine eye, however I can’t say that he actually said anything. He certainly responded in a positive manner, but he was very quiet. It may even have been a smiley mime.
The above is, to the best of my recollection how it all began, eight months or so ago. However since that morning I have done the following in attempt not to have to say ‘good morning’ to the same gentleman…..
- Fake telephone call.
- Stopping to tie my shoe lace
- Crossing the road and faking seeing someone
- Changing my usual route
- Running very fast
I can only explain it this way. I am fickle.
When I said good morning the very first time, I meant it. I really did…..good morning to you nice man that I see everyday. Let us be community spirited and celebrate humanity. Have a lovely day. I am very pleased with myself. Very pleased with myself indeed.
The next half a dozen or so times, I meant it also…. hello again, fancy seeing you here, ha ha, I’m a proper grown up can you tell? Look at me interacting positively with you, please tell someone. Please keep doing your bit to help me convince myself that I’m not a social retard.
About a month in I still meant it. Kind of. Nothing had changed, he was still a nice man, BUT I definitely had a distinct feeling… Oh hello, yeah I can’t really be ****** with much more of this, but whatever. Yeah bye.
About two months in and to be honest I am wishing Nice Man an early death. A freak car mounting the kerb incident or maybe death by falling coconut, just so that I PLEASE GOD don’t have to look at his stupid face and say hello AGAIN.
I should add at this point that Nice Man is still a nice man. He has done nothing at all to upset me. He has always been polite. Nothing about his dress or demeanour has changed. He is the very same man that I started saying good morning to about two months ago. The only difference as far as I can tell is that I no longer wish to have to say good morning to him, but because I feel obliged to do so, I am very cross and wish him elsewhere. Cross perhaps with myself because I don’t have the courage to just ‘blank him’ and have done with it? Or cross because this situation reveals ‘me’ to me and I don’t like it?
It would seem I am grumpy coward, but at least I have some notion if what is socially unacceptable (I can’t just stop saying hello, he’ll think I’m weird) even if it is the case (according to my wife) that at times I have no idea of how to be socially acceptable. Whatever the weather, the outcome is I wish Nice Man a dose of bird flu or partial paralysis, anything that will render him incapable of being on my ******* route to work.
About three months in I started employing the avoidance tactics listed at the beginning. You’ll note however that there are only five, so some have been used more than once and others have been merged and undertaken simultaneously. But still, there are only five so it goes without saying that I have smiled and said good morning through gritted teeth A LOT. Without the security blanket of my avoidance tactics however, this is the usual drill for my daily interchange with Nice Man.
I walk to work hoping that he has died peacefully in his sleep the night before (note peacefully, I’m not a monster) and that my plight is finally over. However as I round the bend on to a straight stretch of road, I see him in the distance. We are about 200 meters apart. At the mere sight of him my entire body tenses and I seriously contemplate turning around and walking in the other direction. The problem is though, if I can see him, he can see me. Big sigh. SO. I continue my journey muttering rude words quietly to myself. At around 100 meters for some reason I start to either a) whistle or b) hum. I have no idea why I do this? It is unplanned and involuntary. I have given some thought to it though and think it is to either a) distract myself, so I don’t scream obscenities or b) distract myself so I don’t jump under a bus.
At about 50 meters to go we both look straight down to our feet to avoid a long period of eye contact. Awkward.com. It seems we both understand this. It is an unspoken pact. We walk transfixed by our shoes for about 48 meters or so until the very last minute. The tension is rising. At 2 meters to go we quickly look up, say hello and then look straight back to our shoes. For the final meter my bum-hole is so tightly clenched, I seriously fear I may pass out as all the blood rushes to my bottom. I worry that I’ll ‘come to’ and find Nice Man giving me mouth-to-mouth.
And then it’s all over. Sweet release. No sooner than my heckles were up, they are back down again and I am at peace once more. It’s strange how quickly the tension leaves me, how quickly my mind takes me elsewhere and how quickly Nice Man leaves my concious thoughts. Until next morning, when I round that bend again and contemplate murder. I do occasionally wonder what his take on all this is? Whether he is as distressed by the whole affair as me and politely wishes me dead? Would he actually resuscitate me if I did keel over at his feet? Or would he step over me and smile to himself?
I did see him once on a Saturday, which was weird. Different location, without the big 200 metre run up, just a quick off-the-cuff ‘oh hi’ and to be honest, that was quite pleasant. I had other people with me at the time and they seemed quite impressed that I knew someone to say hello to. So maybe death is a bit extreme. Perhaps I am getting carried away. Maybe amnesia so he forgets his usual route. Or glaucoma for him and soft-soled shoes for me……
I have no idea why I am sharing this?