Whenever I work the day shift, once I’ve survived the commute and parked my car, I make my way over my drawbridge to the bridge tower. I’m usually not living my best life at that exact moment. I could never be mistaken for a morning person.
But during that foggy-brained walk, I almost always pass a guy who is walking in the opposite direction. I could set my watch by him. We both are creatures of habit, it seems.
I often wonder about this guy. Where is he going? Where is he coming from? He’s a bit scruffy, but he’s punctual as all get out.
So, about 9 months ago, I decided that I would say good morning as we passed each other. He did not even look up at me, and he said not a word. But this is Seattle, after all. People don’t just say good morning to strangers, as a general rule. It’s just not done. (I’ll never get used to that.)
The next day, I thought that maybe this time, my good morning wouldn’t take him by surprise. But I got the same reaction. No eye contact, no response.
Okay, this has become a challenge. I began to want, very badly, to get a good morning out of this guy. I was determined.
Months went by, and I continued to do my daily experiment. It became a bit of an effort to keep my pleasant tone when I could only assume I was going to get nothing back. But I did so because, when all is said and done, I really did hope he had a good morning.
After all that time with no eye contact whatsoever, I began to wonder if this gentleman had some sort of anxiety disorder. If so, were my good mornings construed as a type of bullying? Was I adding stress to his life? That certainly wasn’t my intention.
But I really didn’t know a thing about him. Maybe he was just less of a morning person than I was. Maybe he was a Seattleite from birth and his greeting muscle had atrophied. Maybe he doesn’t speak English. Maybe he just wanted to be left alone, but on the other hand, maybe he’s desperately lonely and just socially awkward.
I decided to press on, because if he never responded, it wasn’t like I’d beat him up or something. He’s an adult and can make his own choices. I’d just be a little sad.
Somewhere around month three, he began to give me eye contact. He didn’t smile, but he didn’t give me a hostile glare, either. Progress.
By the end of month six, I began to detect a change in expression. Was that a very slight, hesitant smile peeking out of his scruffy beard? Yes, I think so.
Then in early February, I got really sick with the head cold from hell, and I missed a week of work and sidewalk greetings. I wondered if he noticed. But I didn’t dwell on it, because I was too busy coughing up my lungs.
When I came back to work, to be honest, I still felt like utter crap. I’m sure I didn’t exactly look like my old self, either. I was so busy trying to ambulate through my vertigo that I didn’t bother to say good morning, or even look up, to him or anyone else, for about two weeks.
The following week, though, I was back to our old routine. This time I got the biggest smile ever. That really made me happy.
After that, his smile was more subdued, but it was still there. I’d like to think that I was a bright spot in his morning. I hoped so, at least.
And then today, it finally happened. I said good morning, and he smiled brightly. “Good morning!” he said.
I almost jumped for joy. I wanted to dance the rest of the way down the bridge. I wanted to look over my shoulder at him, but I didn’t want to intimidate him in any way, so I just walked, casually, to the bridge tower, climbed the stairs, and then started jumping up and down. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Do I plan to escalate this contact? No. I look forward to exchanging good mornings, of course, but I’ll leave it at that. We are strangers, and I’m perfectly content to let it stay that way. But now we’re strangers with benefits of a rated G sort.
Can I get a high five for persistence?
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