Not unusually, today I was waiting out in the merciless wind for my all too late bus to show itself and provide some shield from the icy breeze. The somewhat abnormal occurrence in the otherwise ordinary routine however was a brief tap on the shoulder followed by an almost immediate squeal of “Hiiiiiiii!” accompanied by some incessant waving. Given I had absolutely no clue who this girl was, instinctively I gave her a confused, questioning look and only replied with a polite smile once the message had processed to my brain that I was being slightly rude given she’d done nothing wrong. The girl then proceeded to do the exact same thing to the six other people waiting at the bus stop, responses all consisting of taking considerable steps away from her and giving her looks portraying a combined message of “What are you doing?” and “Get out of my personal space. Please.” Although some didn’t have the added ‘please’.
It was only after I’d successfully seated myself on the bus (which had kindly decided to finally relieve us from the cold) that I took a step back to question what had just happened. My wondering was not, however, why on a cold and miserable day the girl had chosen to go up to various strangers to say hello with a cheery smile. Rather, I wondered why, collectively, our instinctive response, to what can only be described as friendliness, was a step back and confused glance. Why is it so bizarre for this to happen? And perhaps even more concerning, why do we initially perceive it as a threat prior to considering it as a gesture of good will?
The thought almost made me feel ashamed, or at the least disappointed, that even my own gut instinct (despite considering myself as a friendly person) was to feel confused rather than automatically say “Hi” with a smile, even though after a moments thought that’s what I did. The fact that to produce what should be seen as a socially expected normal response to a friendly greeting, some consolidation or moments thoughts need to occur is somewhat worrying – and even confusing.
I suppose there’s little to be done, simply my observation for the day. However, I assure you, my instinct next time will be a wide smile.
Maybe not too wide, because lets face it, that might creep them out.