I returned from a week in New Jersey where I had gone after Grandma ended up in the hospital again. This time, pneumonia brought her there, but fortunately, I returned home happy to see that she had dodged yet another bullet. So girls, my side of the family has pretty good genes.
While there, I had a lot of time to think, observe, and watch a lot of television. I had a lot of fun playing my “can I make you look at me and say hello game.” I think I first began playing this game during the last year or two.
I noticed how much chattier strangers are down in the South when Kelly and I first came to Columbia to visit her college. It made us uncomfortable when it first happened and I remember holding my purse closer to me and wondering what the stranger outside the restaurant wanted from us. We later realized he was just being friendly.
It was Mark who pointed out that it goes beyond just striking up a conversation with random people at a store or restaurant. He told me it is also the lack of eye contact, so I decided to test his observation.
Sitting outside the elevator in the hospital, I watched as person after person would walk by me, almost all with their eyes intent on looking at the floor. There was no beautiful artwork on the tile or money scattered about. The eyes darted downward as they got closer to me, so I would look at them, trying to get them to acknowledge my presence.
Finally, a man walked by me and returned my smile with a hello so I said, “You passed.” He stopped and asked what I meant, so I explained my past-time game to him. He politely replied that he disagreed, so I challenged him to take notice.
The next day he passed me in the hall, and this time he stopped, said hello, and asked how I was doing. Then he said he will remember my story.
Now I am not claiming that all Southerners are friendlier than those in the North, and I bet the people in my little hometown of Boonton are a friendly group of people. Casey told me that “whenever strangers look me in the eye, I assume I have snot coming out of my nose or a stain on my shirt.” Did living in Maryland for three years wipe out what you learned living in South Carolina for almost six years?
Jamie, you need to play my game. When you walk across the parking lot at the supermarket, see if you can get a stranger to say hello to you.
So I challenge anyone reading this to try the game, and if you travel, note if the geographic location makes a difference. I am anxious to hear the results.