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Wednesday, 2 October 2013


... is it me you're looking for?

If you're new to this blog and haven't quite caught up with the fact that I'm socially awkward, I'm socially awkward. There.

Now that's out of the way, you will maybe see why it makes sense for me to overthink something as trivial (and sometimes menial) as a greeting. I saw a man from the military in uniform the other day and I suddenly remembered learning/being told when I was younger that you're supposed to say "Happy encounter!" when you see one. It was the polite thing to do. It never made any sense to me until... well, now? I know, slooow catching up with that one. At any rate, there's quite a lot to greetings and I thought I'd go on and write a post about it. Or start a post about it, I have to go in a bit. 

Greetings. You use them when you talk, when you write a letter, via e-mail and even when you write a text message (if you have any sense of manners). The way the ancient Romans did it, Salve!, was an imperative for “have health.” It sounds odd to impose health on others like this. Brusque, even. But the underlying motive behind it is that you wish no ill (literally, as it so happens) to the person you are greeting. Remind me to find out the exact translation of “ave·,” as in Ave Cesar!, and to find out what greetings in non-romance languages come from and what they mean. Back to where I was. Greetings are a way of saying “I’m here,” “Are you there,?” “I acknowledge your presence in this space,” “I haven’t seen you in a while,” “I’d like to talk to you” and I’m sure plenty others I can’t think of at this moment. Whatever your intentions, the nature of a greeting is always well-meaning. You wish people a good day/part of the day/rest of days (as would be the case when you wish them good health).

What exactly is the intention of a greeting, then? If you know more about sociology than I do (I know nothing) you can correct me when I make the following guess: it’s recognising the person you’re with as an equal, if only as far as admitting that yes, they are a sentient being in the same open subset of time-space as you. Where do all the social rules (read: manners) come from, then? You are supposed to greet people when you first see them after an undisclosed period of time. I’ve heard the phrase “Good morning! What, did we wake up together that you’re not greeting me?” and it does beg the question of how far people are when they’re both asleep, but it’s a matter for another day and another post.  You greet people you are only just then meeting to introduce yourself but you also greet people you already know and who already know you. You greet people even when it’s obvious you two are occupying the same relatively small area. You greet people even when you have no intention of striking up a conversation with them.

Why, then, is it considered rude not to say hello? Well, let’s start with when it’s considered wrong not to say hello. If you are meeting someone you say hello. If you are receiving visitors you say hello. If you want to start a conversation you say hello. I may be missing quite a few more instances, but that may be enough to state the whole reason I started writing this post in the first place (sorry it didn't come out as good as I hoped, I thought it would be a cleverer dissertation and I put it off from one day to the other and now have more pressing issues to write about). I saw both K and MrInteresting (surprise!) and even though I walked quite close, I just walked right past them without saying anything. I felt a little bad, like I was expected to say something, but then I thought about it some more and reminded myself I don't exactly want to talk to either. Why stop and say hi if I don't mean to stick around? When I run into Ck I immediately greet her with a smile. When I buy tea from the nice lady close to the office I try my best to remember to greet her with a big smile because she's so friendly. When I walk into the office and see Pf2 or ON I say hello. When I run into ON I greet him. When I get on the bus I wish the driver a good morning/afternoon/evening. Even though I don't intend to engage in conversation with them. Shouldn't I, by the same standards, do the same with K and MrInteresting? 

What about the times when someone drops by and I have to find an excuse to go to the kitchen and say hello (if I do that at all?). There was a time when mum would ask us to come out of our room just to say hello, but I find myself going out for something else and greeting the visitor as a "by the by" sort of even. Like it would be strange to walk out just to greet them seeing how I see them often enough anyway and won't be sticking around for a conversation. Then, I can't help but bring up the last time I talked to LesMisGuy. Up until that moment I'd completely avoided him and pretended not so see him or even be there at all to be seen. But that time we were walking straight at each other and I could see he'd seen me and I felt I just had to say hello.

I fail at social interaction. Fantastic.

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