Every day I walk the 897 steps from my car, through the parking lot, and into the building to my desk. I know it is 897 steps because one day I got to my desk and realized I still had my prescription sunglasses on and had to walk back to the van to get my regular glasses. I figured since I was making two trips I should see how far it actually was. It’s almost the equivalent of a half a mile. I should really be happy I was able to walk about one and a half miles that morning but trust me, I was not.
This walk is interesting. I am always amazed at the lengths people will go not to make eye contact with another human being. I’m one of those annoying people that the moment my eyes open in the morning I can, and will if you allow it, have a full conversation - much to the dismay of some of my family members. However, understanding that not everyone appreciates this, I’ve learned to approach with caution, at least until they’ve had their coffee. I can’t help it.
So on my way into the office when I see people, I want to say “Good Morning” with a smile. Harmless and non-threatening I can assure you however, a lot of people don’t like this; and I mean A LOT.
I had the same schedule as a man who works in my building, as we typically ended up on the sidewalk at the same time each morning. I mean, we were almost walking side by side on a daily basis and yet, every time I looked over in his direction, he was intently looking forward. Not once did he even glance my way, so I really never felt like I should address him and this went on for weeks. I would look over and realized his pace would quicken just a bit and I of course, felt the need to keep up.
Finally one day while driving into work, I decided I was just going to do it, this was the day I was going to say hello. It’s almost ridiculous and I still have to laugh (while shaking my head, of course) that I put so much thought into a simple “Good Morning”. As I drove, I came up with a plan. I decided walking five steps first would be good. Why five? Well, I certainly didn’t want to overwhelm him the moment we were side by side, but not wanting to wait too long that it would be odd, five seemed logical. So there it was, the game plan. I got out of my car with just a little extra pep and as anticipated, he was on the sidewalk at the same time as I. Beginning to count and reaching five, I put on my best smile, looked, and leaned just a bit forward in and said a cheerful, “Good Morning”.
That’s when it happened, it was almost in slow motion….he stopped dead in his tracks, which caused me to do the same. His eyes began to widen, his entire body tensed and he glanced my way looking at me in utter disbelief. Seriously, I’m sure the hairs on his neck were standing up! Then my eyes widened and instantly I was questioning if I had said something else? Had I somehow gone against a rule I didn’t know existed? Had my intended words come out as something foreign? He gained his composure and like a dart being propelled out of one of the boys’ nerf guns – he was gone. I just stood there watching as his feet moved so quickly he almost tripped. Regaining my own composure, the next 892 steps I questioned what I had done and that’s when I realized – just because I’m a morning person and am not only willing, but comfortable making small talk with people, doesn’t mean everyone is; and just because I don’t like when people “ignore” me when they pass by, doesn’t mean others feel the same. I have to be aware that maybe they are in thought about something bothering them, maybe they don’t like talking to strangers or maybe I just need to remember that we are different and one is not “more right” than the other. I’ve also learned that no matter what my interaction with others I choose how I allow their reaction to effect me.
I still say “Good Morning” every chance I get, but I no longer wonder what’s "wrong” with the person who doesn’t make eye contact. I will confess however, I still do everything I can to make them want to.