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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Don’t Know Who That Is, But Maybe You Do

One of my favorite aspects of living in a city is the number of people you come to recognize on a daily basis.

Sure, we may not know each other, but hey! Don’t you ride my bus? Don’t we walk past each other, ride the same elevator?

I’m not saying we need to exchange holiday cards or bum cigarettes from each other, but I think it warrants a nod, don’t you?

I think a nod just says so much. “Hello there! I see you, and acknowledge your place in the world.”

I enjoy the cordial impersonality of the city.

But a little personality isn’t bad, either.

I was on the bus the other day when I recognized the head of the woman in front of me. (It’s one of my many talents, the ability to recognize the backs of heads, along with recognizing people by their gait and being able to open doors with my feet. But that’s probably best left for another post.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I was in the midst of recognizing the head of the woman in front of me on the bus.

It was my Aunt Joanne.

I leaned forward and tugged a bit of hair at the back of her neck. She swatted my hand away without turning around.

So I did it again.

She turned around somewhat indignantly, ready to give the freak bothering her the what-for.

“Hey, what do you think – why, Miss Pearl!”

She beamed at me. “I thought you were some sort of freak,” she exclaimed.

“There are people who would say you aren’t far off the mark,” I laughed.

We chatted for the 10 or so blocks before her stop, whereupon she de-bussed, as we say on the commuter-circuit, and I continued on.

Every day we run into people with varying relationships to ourselves, some of whom we know and some of whom we don’t.

When you run across my Aunt Joanne – and some day, you just might – nod at her for me, will ya?

Because I’m going to nod at yours.

32 comments:

L.C.T. said...

Definitely like this thought :) Completely agree about acknowledging and actually seeing the people around us. I think I blogged about it a while back...

Pat said...

If Aunt Joanne is driving along a road in Garden Valley and I am walking along that road, I will definitely give her a wave because that's what everyone in Garden Valley does. (GV population: about 2000). I like that about a small town.

savannah said...

i guess it's a southern thing, sugar, but we speak all the time to each other! but, if y'all see my aunt, i'd advise y'all to use the cutting glance and ignore her. bless her heart, but she can't help the fact that she'd stab y'all in the back as she touched y'all's shoulder and complimented y'all on having a wart removed when ya never even had one! but maybe that's jes with me! xoxoxo

De Campo said...

Can we tugg at Aunt Joanne's hair? I'm under the impression that is the acceptable form of mass transit greeting in Minnesota.

At least for us freaks.

Yodood said...

Beautiful. Being a bus rider myself I appreciate the impersonal courtesies acknowledging our primary humanity in ways that personalities make opaque with preferences. Thanks for the light way you spoke of such a universal connectedness, and the light you shined on it..

The mad woman behind the blog said...

I do miss the bussing days. The closest I get is recognizing which cars to avoid on the freeway.
Sigh.

Simply Suthern said...

I'm a bobble head by heart. I nod, throw up(hand), and howdy all the time. I used to know everyone in town and they knew you. It was bad thing not to acknowlege and they would call you on it next time your paths cross. Now a days with new folks coming in they don't particularly care for the homeyness we extend. It's a hung head to ignore or a cross look. Listen folks, we just want to get to know you better so we can get in your house to see what you got so we can talk about you with our friends. It's all good.

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

I know what you mean but I'm on the opposite side of this. I'm the one who doesn't know anyone while everyone else knows everybody. (That didn't make sense did it?)

Really simply: Uber small town + Me Who's New = Feeling like everyone is looking at me for the Big City freak I am.

I'd love to get to the head nod stage. Soon.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

You open doors with your feet? But I thought you had webbed toes? Watch whose hair you pull next time. I hear Ossama Bin Laden rides your bus and we don't want him getting cranky.

cyclopseven said...

The universe is designed in such a way to allow us to come across faces or things familiar on daily basis...across time and places. Rarely we greet the familiar faces, not even by a simple 'humble' gesture. People are very cautious and quite apprehensive in getting to know or acknowledge people for many reasons. Those days when I used to go to work by bus, I always see many familiar 'strangers' boarding the same bus. We hardly exchange anything...except money and ticket with the conductor:). One day when I was in the same bus, I noticed a 'familiar stranger' sitting opposite was staring at me.....so for courtesy sake I nodded my head, thinking, after all what the heck, we are not going to pay for it, nor people going to charge us for acknowledging their presence. The next thing I know, he got up and 'slouched' beside me. A few minutes later, he turned and said, "hey brother, can you lend me 20 bucks?". I retorted immediately, "Are you charging me for acknowledging you?". He looked stunned and didn't open his mouth until the final stop.

Thanks for visiting me. Appreciate that. You have got a pretty nice blog. I have found a new place to hang around:) Thanks again.

Jodie Kash said...

I'm for the tugging.

Nuke Girl said...

I appreciate people who give out the nod of acknowledgment and I always try to hand them out myself. Except not to creepers. And I don't acknowledge nods from creepers, either.

I especially try to smile and seem friendly to little old men/ladies who look frightened by my tattoos. :P

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

yes, I definitely recommend that you do not pull my aunt's hair!! Just sayin'!

I also thought I was an expert at recognizing people by the backs of their heads...till I swatted an old pal one on the back, had her turn around and come eye-to-infuriated-eye with a complete stranger!

Mr London Street said...

Lovely post. Everybody is, after all, somebody to somebody. If I ever saw my Aunty Linda on a bus I'd definitely high five her. Well, high six in her case but the less said about that the better. It's the thought that counts.

Molly Potter said...

My over-familiarity and inability to quite get social etiquette, personal space and the whole leave-that-stranger-alone thing gets me into odd spaces sometimes. I usualy wriggle out by explaining that the person next to me (often a stranger too) is my main carer and helping with rehabiitation, smile sweetly and sidle away.

I just don't get the whole...you can talk to this person because you KNOW them, and not to this person becasue you don't KNOW them thing.

There's endless possibilities of getting to know all these people that you don't know and then knowing them, so the etiquette police will back off.

Perhaps it's just as well that my city is not a large one.
x
P.S. Can identification by back of head alone be taught?

Krëg said...

When you nod at someone, you're nodding at everyone that person has ever nodded to.

Practice safe nods.

mapstew said...

I constantly nod and smile at complete strangers, usually gets a good reaction. Well I think they are good reactions! :¬)

xxx

Pearl said...

So we are all in agreement then? We will not pull Roshni's aunt's hair, we will discreetly high-six Mr. London Street's aunt, and we will practice safe nodding (Kreg, ya weirdo!!!)

I offer each and every one of you (and your aunties) a brief nod of acknowledgement.

I swear. I'm pretty sure I write the blog just to read the comments. :-) You guys are funny.

Oh, and Molly? The world needs people like you, the ones who are unafraid. I very much like the fact that societal mores, by your own account, confuse you.

Me-Me King said...

LOL! She thought you were some sort of freak? Well?

Secretia said...

That is a very cute post, Pearl.

Secretia

Ms Sparrow said...

To bus or to buss? It seems to me that busing is to take the bus and bussing is kissing (or snogging as the Brits would have it). Of course, since I never bus or buss, I'm no expert!

Madame DeFarge said...

I invariably see sometime I know everywhere I go. rather unnerving really. But if you see my Mum, ask her what she's doing in Minnesota. She's meant to be in Wemyss Bay.

CatLadyLarew said...

I was waiting for you to say it wasn't your aunt after all! Now, that would have been freaky!

Jeanie said...

Where I grew up we used the one finger wave, No, not that one, but the index finger lifted in greeting from the top of the steering accompanied by a slight not of the head. Friendly and safer than pulling hair. I am all in favor of a wave and a smile to friend and stranger alike.

darsden said...

dang it Pearl I nod! I tried to talk to you once but I got the L@@K...haven't been on the bus in a few... ;-}

My name is PJ. said...

Nods and smiles go a long way in this world.

Douglas said...

What if it had not been Aunt Joanne?

That is what happens to me all the time. Both as mistaking the head, and being mistaken for another head.

Janie at Sounding Forth said...

That's funny!....and that's family!

Fragrant Liar said...

I'll do better than nod at her, Pearl. I'll pull her hair! She'll be so thrilled.

Marla said...

I love the way you write. Seriously!

Eternally Distracted said...

I'm going to have to try that hair-pulling thing... with everyone. I might even call whoever turns around 'Aunt Joanne' too...

Jess said...

I recognized the guy that used to stand outside of the Savannah College of Art and Design building every morning when I walked past...we were at the same liquor store together yesterday. Never spoke...always nodded. It appears he no longer works there. He looked kinda rough.