Nobody smiles at me any more.
It’s true. Even though I smile at everyone I pass on my walks, almost none of them smile back. Some of them don’t even smile when I’m grinning at them like a Cheshire cat.
And they say Yorkshire is friendly!
Actually, I’m not telling you the whole story. I do walk a lot and I smile at everyone. But I am multitasking. I will invariably be listening to a book at the same time as walking which means I am wearing earphones.
I have decided that it’s the earphones that put people off. It’s as if, by putting on my earphones, I am telling the world that I no longer want to engage. I have partitioned off my sense of hearing and thus part of my self and as a result shown that I do not want to be disturbed.
But this isn’t true. Yes, I am using the time that it takes me to walk to do something else as well – in this case read books that I would otherwise never make time for. What I don’t understand is why this means strangers can pass shoulder to shoulder with me and still fail to acknowledge that I am there. This makes me sad. (Here I am looking sad in my earphones.)
There are a number of explanations for this odd response.
1. They assume I do not want to be disturbed… but I’m not looking for a twenty minute conversation – just a smile.
2. They think that because I’m wearing earphones, I must be the kind of person that will not engage socially, like some kind of thug. I sometimes want to stop them and say ‘Honestly! I’m no threat. I’m listening to The Archers’ Omnibus!’
3. They are just glad of an excuse not to engage with me because they are naturally anti-social themselves.
I have tried to find earphones that are discreet and won’t put people off but I can’t get them to stay in my ears so all I can do is continue to smile and hope to surprise them into smiling back. Actually, it’s quite disconcerting to be ignored. It’s like I’m a ghost or am wearing an invisibility cloak. And also, I think it’s a bit rude. But then maybe they think I’m the rude one for listening to books in the street?