Have We Met?

I've noticed that I spend quite a lot of my time saying 'Hello' to people who I don't even know.

As I walk down the street, I say 'hello' to at least 67% of the good folk who pass me.

This habit - as with most things in my life - is born out of fear. Fear that I will pass someone who I know and will fail to say 'hello' to them.

After fourteen years of living in London, I kinda got in the habit of not expecting to see people I know.

So, for a long while there, I was breezing through the streets of my little town not really acknowledging anyone at all.

Now it's the other extreme - look at me sideways and you're sure to get a great big 'Hello!"

I also tend to wave a lot at passing cars.

I know, I know but it's all that tinted glass, I can't tell who's inside the damn things. I think I recognise the make and colour of the car so I reckon, I'd better wave just to be on the safe side.

The latest manifestation of this manic acknowledgment of complete strangers relates to my treasured ipod (steal it and I will steal your life).

Whenever I see people walking towards me, I tend to pull out my little-ear-bud-things. Just in case they might want to speak to me and I might miss their nugget of information (maybe not an entire nugget, maybe just a dipper or even a goujon).

Usually they don't (want to talk to me) so I slip my buds back in.


If the overall effect of this musing is to cause you to think, "what a sad bastard," then you are probably on the right course to finally understanding this blogger.

HIYA!!! (Vroooooooooom)...



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I grew up in a place just the opposite... outside New York... where reticence is expected. Then I moved to a small town, and people expected you notice them and wave -- not look through them. I had the opposite problem, walking around waving or smiling I started to feel like the queen of england. I don't think you are a sad bastard, I think it is all what you are used to growing up. So wave away, pull out the ipod plugs, and be who you are!

Fiendish said...

Here's the thing with me.

I cannot do short exchanges with people. Even like close friends, if I see them in the street, I don't know whether to stop, and if I do stop, how long do we keep talking and what do we talk about? I hate short exchanges. I just can't do them. I don't think of myself as a socially awkward person in general (although you might be able to correct me on this). It's just that.

So where you would be taking your iPod earphones out, I would be instinctively thinking: "Oh God, how soon can I get away from this?"

Although not with you, Ken, of course :D Nice post.

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...


I think it's an Irish thing too. I noticed when I moved here that people passing in the road (particularly when there aren't many others around - out walking dogs for example) will always nod and say hello. And drivers in cars lift their hands in greeting when passing on country roads too.

Definitely don't get that back at home, and I get strange looks from dogwalkers when I do it automatically.

Tam said...

Do your ears not get sore from pulling the i-pod earphones in and out all the time?

I hate it when someone waves at you, you wave back, and it turns out they are waving at the person behind you.
There's no dignified way out of that situation. You can pretend you're waving to someone behind them, but that usually gets me in trouble.

Or how about when someone says hello to you in a lift or something, and it turns out they're on their phone.

I might stay indoors tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Well hello to you!

Sometimes I feel like I know my fellow bloggers much better than I know my neighbors...even across the globe.

How was the Tom Waits concert?


Anonymous said...

Hi Sheila: I was going to banish you as spam until I realised the subtlety and wry humour of your comment. Hello Back!!

Avidreader: London was a lot like that - I would return after being home and would tend to say hello to people in general until I settled back in to the big city's insular ways. I always seem to engage on some level with almost everyone I meet/see and this can be extremely wearing in a large city.

Fiendish: I think you're voicing (with enviable honesty) what many of us feel. Small talk is *so* hard... and when the conversation hangs... oh God, get me out!! And, of course, not me... that's a given. :)

Hi Catherine: It is an Irish thing. The converse can be true too, where people are quietly berated for not waving or 'returning the salute' as I've heard it referred to.

Hi Tam, I might just stay indoors myself... see you on Bookmooch 'round eleven?

Roxi: Tom Waits was... astounding. The purpose of today's post is to give me time to polish my review of the concert. I want to probe to the heart of this performers very being but, well, it's tougher than it sounds.

Anonymous said...

LOL, Ken, I do the same thing. I am always so worried that I will snub someone.....sometimes I miss living in a big city where you just ignore everyone.

I love my ipod too. :)

hope said...

Where I live, it's just a southern thing...waving is akin to breathing, as is the polite hello, even to [gasp] strangers.

Or maybe it's that Irish gene kicking in again, y'all. ;)

And fiendish, doesn't matter how old you are, some of us are just anti-small talk. If I wanted to babble on about the weather, I'd work for a t.v. station. :)

Jena Isle said...

Hello stranger...happy birthday ( I noticed your age in the sidebar has changed...)

I can imagine you waving your hand and even taking a bow. You have always been the perfect gentleman.(smiles)

"Let me share what we do in this corner of the world. We are not expected to wave at people. But it would be rude not to "stop" and talk to a person we are familiar with, just to say hello. Sometimes we just say, "Saan ka pupunta?" (Where are you going? ), even if the answer is " Diyan lang." Translated literally - "only there", which means , the question may or may not be answered specifically. What mattered was the acknowledgment accorded to each person.

Thanks for sharing this short but "smile inspiring" post and for allowing me to share mine.

I have always considered you to be an honest, sincere and great blogger. Happy blogging.

Anonymous said...

There's this quotation that states, "there are no strangers in this world, only friends that we have not met."

Anonymous said...

I hope I pass you on the street one day, I'll chat your ear off. Let you buy me coffee (but then I'd buy you a muffin). I think you're cute with all your little idiosyncrasies.

When I'm living in Ireland, I will smile and say hello to people all the time. But Torontonians couldn't give a flying duck if someone they knew was walking by. So I just don't bother. *sigh* I miss Dublin.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to reading your post about the concert. I'm guessing I'll feel like I was there.


Thomas Hammerlund said...

How did you come up with the 67% figure?

H Dickins said...

I never use an MP3 player at all. When I walk through the park - I want to say hello to all the dog-walkers and cyclists. (And listen to the birds, and avoid being run-over by a mad parks-department guy on a lawnmower.)

Jim Murdoch said...

The Scots are also not averse to acknowledging the existence of other people. I remember when I was sixteen and heading off to work in the morning. I was taken by the fact that most of the old workers I'd pass on my way to the station would greet me. Granted that greeting often sounded more like a belch - "haiurp" - but what they were saying was that I was one of them, a fellow worker; I liked that. I think it's a generational thing. People my age and older are more prone to this. I can't remember ever being greeted by a younger man in the morning although some of the women are prone to give you an occasional, slightly embarrassed-looking smile.

Kat Mortensen said...

Do you ever do that little two-step dance that happens when you're approaching someone and you lock eyes and then you both try to go in the same direction and just about collide into each other?

"Look away!" I keep saying to myself, but it's as if my head were in a force-field and I am driven to look in spite of myself and then there's that little embarrassed giggle. Do you do that?



Anonymous said...

I moved back to my hometown in April. My mom knows EVERYONE so we are always having to stop and chat with people. I lived in and around San Francisco for awhile where you don't make eye contact with people passing by because they might ask you for money. So the whole talking to everyone thing is a little strange to me and I have to stop myself from getting impatient.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Are you sure you ain't Southern? 'Cause down here, people who don't do what you described are considered rude.

The cup is half full of something I don't like said...

I grew up in a small town NW U.S. and then have been going back and forth between NE U.S. and NW U.S. I have to say, I love going for a walk in the small towns in NW. Half the people you've never seen say hello or at least acknowledge that you exist. In the NE, half the time people I've seen a hundred times don't even say hi. Maybe it's me.

Ken Armstrong said...

Nicole: Ipods are great, aren't they? I always thought they were posey and unnecessary until I got one.

Hope: I used to have an Aunty Small-Talk. we used to hate it when she came to visit.

Thanks Jen, is the 'Ka' gender-specific, like in Thailand? Ka would be feminine, I think Khap (or something similar) was masculine.

Fragileheart: I wouldn't let you buy me a coffee without buying me a muffin too... it wouldn't seem right.

Roxi: I sure feel like I was there.

BK - no strangers indeed, only those I haven't waved to...

Thomas: Admittedly, my percentage calculation was a little unscientific...

Hey H dickens - I sort of live for the day when the lawn mower man might run me down, then I might get a bigger Ipod. :)

Jim: when the women smile like that... that's flirting, that is, get their names next time.

Kat: Yes I do do that :) I pull my earphones out while I'm doing it.
Rachel: I know, my dad knows everyone in my home place and a stroll down the town is incredibly sloooow.

Gargantua: Not Southern but, yeah, it can be considered rude to not wave back over here as well.

Anonymous said...

I live in Sydney and will only occasionally smile or say hello as I pass people, it seems that mainly older people (i.e. granparent age) will acknowledge you.

One thing I do find amusing is that when we go on holidays my dad will always say hello to people, even though he doesn't do that at home. Although, he will also bump into someone at the shops, have a ten minute conversation, and afterwards say that he isn't sure who they are.