Wednesday, May 9

Hillbilly born and bred

How friendly are my fellow Brightonians I wondered, and decided to do an experiment (thank you Jay of kill the goat providing the inspiration). Out on my daily pre-lunch walk yesterday I beamed a smile at every person I met: man, woman and child, to see how many would smile back.

Hmmm… although a fair number did return my smile (and yes, men far out-numbered the women, and no, there were no tears from frightened children, thankfully I don't appear to be that scary-looking), what really surprised me was that the staggering majority were so busy staring at the ground in front of their feet that they missed my friendly grin altogether.

My father once philosophised that only country bumpkins look at other peoples faces on the street. According to his theory, born and bred city-dwellers are too jaded to be curious in other people. Maybe he’s right, but there are other things to rest our gaze upon other than our fellow human beings. Brighton is not a concrete jungle after all: and even so, many of the buildings are stunning. Then there is the sea, and spring has afforded a breathtaking array of colourful flowers and brand-spanking-new leaves on trees and bushes everywhere. Why aren’t people looking, drinking it all in? What’s so interesting about the dirty asphalt that we’d rather look at that than all this beauty that surrounds us?

I hereby pledge that for the remainder of this week I will not look down more than I have to (it’s probably a good idea to quickly scan the ground ahead for dog poo and open man holes). I will also continue smiling at my fellow renegades. And I don’t care if that labels me a yokel.

15 comments:

Author Mom with Dogs said...

"staggering majority were so busy staring at the ground"

It never ceases to amaze me that one could be in the middle of NYC and feel totally alone. People don't want eye contact here; they don't want anything to intrude on their carefully-built bubble they walk in.

Can always tell out-of-towners by their lack of bubble-ness.

blondie said...

Its the same everywhere. People are scared of too many things nowadays. There is so much more fear.

I love your experiment. The results could teach all of us about how to live our lives a little better...

:)

kikare said...

When I was living in HK, I didn't look down to the ground all the time, but yes, I tried to avoid looking at people's faces. The simple reason being there were no friendly faces and of course my action contributed to the fact.

Since I moved to this tiny village in Sweden, I've met people who smiled and said "Hej" to me out of the blue. I was a bit shocked at first but quickly I learnt to return the smile and greeting. Now when I walk, I tend to look at the other person's face to see if he/she is prepared to exchange a friendly greeting.

It feels nice :)

daisies said...

country bumpkin am i ~ when i first moved from my small town to 'the big city', i used to do this all the time because smiles are contagious and i was tired of frowny conentrated eyes not meeting eyes stares. when i am happy, i still do and smiles are still contagious and oh so beautiful : )

yah you!!

Nicole said...

great experiment! i notice even at work, where i know most everybody, that some walk around with the eyes pointing down. hmmmm. i might just have to try smiling at them anyway.

can't wait to hear how things go for you!

Edvard Moonke said...

I could never walk down the street without looking at people's faces. but then I love watching people anyway.

la cubana gringa said...

There seems to be an inverse relationship between the physical proximity of people and their actual level of personal interaction...it seems the bigger the city, the lonelier one can feel (as author mom said). And yet out in the middle of nowhere, one's neighbor might be miles away but everyone still knows all of their neighbors. So odd.

Vanessa said...

I must be a total hillbilly too then! Just recently a woman said to me: "Do I know you?" with a look of utter confusion on her face. All because I smiled at her when she wasn't expecting it....
Keep brightening up Brighton, waspy :)
Vx

BlueJude said...

Cool beans! But yes, please look out for the manholes! lol

cheeky said...

Count me in as a hillbilly too!:)
This is a really interesting subject and one that mystifies me as well.
I was in a lift a couple of weeks ago. Me and another woman. She specifically commented how it's odd that we just stare at the door and say nothing. I told her I agreed and was glad she spoke, and I'm not someone to not aknowledge people either, but it's easy to just fall into that "unspoken" protocol.

Poppy Fields said...

I like living in a town small enough that if I look, and I usually do, I probably know the person walking by well enough to say hi. Certainly well enough for a smile.

KG said...

I'm envisioning a new t-shirt that you can wear as you walk, smiling at everyone:

YOKELS UNITE!

I'd wear one, too. I grew up in a friendly place, also, and I'm happy I did!

Kate said...

I really like this post. I'm a people watcher by nature and can't understand how so many people can let life simply slip past them without so much as a glance. It's sad to see how many people become genuinely uncomfortble if they're forced to trade glances with someone. What does that say about us?

[a} said...

A noble mission: not to tune out of where you are. I think I'll follow suit.

Lacithecat said...

Yeeeehaaaw! Smile ...

BTW - I will be a lady of leisure for a bit in a week or so. I know its quite belated from your invite to drop by so let me know your schedule for a coffee and a bit of a wander sometime over the last two weeks of May.