Friday, December 11, 2009

Ok, that does it.

So there's this social phenomenon going around that I'd like to address. We are all familiar with it. We are all so acquainted with it, in fact, that we probably didn't even notice how awkward it is anymore. Except for me. I notice. I notice, and I say, it has to stop.

I call it "The Long Path". The long path is any time you are walking somewhere and someone is walking in the opposite direction, towards you. At what point do you make eye contact? When do you smile? And what if it's someone you actually know, then what? How long do you wait before you link eyes and acknowledge each other? Am I the only who gets stressed out by this EVERY SINGLE TIME? Sometimes it is possible to defer the whole situation by pretending you didn't see them, or are otherwise occupied. But this option is rendered null as soon as you make eye contact. Say you make eye contact 100 hundred feet away, and this person is an acquaintance, so you know you're going to have to formally acknowldge them. But are you seriously going to just hold that eye contact all the way until you're close enough to actually speak to one another? No. Of course you're not. That would be a long path of awkward. So instead you both quickly avert your eyes and keep walking, not to reunite eye contact until you are close enough to actually say hello. But come on you guys, who are you kidding?! You both saw each other, now you're going to pretend that you didn't? Come on now. So awkward.

The thing is, I don't see any reasonable solution. My M.O. is usually to feign obliviousness, keeping my eyes busy at all times scanning the scenery around me and avoiding faces. Unfortunately it doesn't take long for this method to feel pathetically contrived, and seriously, no one is that interested in scenery, especially when it's the same scenery you see every flipping day when you walk this route.

So the other option, then, would be simply to throw out all these inhibitions and just be friendly, right? Just hold that eye contact. Save yourself some work, keep your face in a perpetual smile so you don't have to time it perfectly every time you cross paths with someone. Remember, sometimes the best act of service you can perform is just to smile at someone! And I'm sure some people live by this, and it works great for them. The problem is that I am not that person. While optimism and cheeriness are virtues I certainly respect, sincerity is one I esteem even higher.

And then we start descending into all that messy business of social etiquette and customs, which most of us seem to agree are unfortunate, yet necessary. I really hate that when people ask me how I am, I have to say 'good' even if I'm not, but that's how the cookie crumbles. I hate that when I say, "How are you?" I'm really just saying, "Oh, hi there." Pero, que sera sera.

If anyone has any alternate suggestions, please let me know. Until then, enjoy your long paths everyone.