- Jerk my head away and immediately begin walking in the opposite direction at a quick, brisk pace.
- Look bewilderingly at them and mumble something indistinguishable.
- Smile and say, "Hi!"
Golly gee, when you put it like that, the choice is very difficult, isn't it? Sometimes, I even threw in a generic greeting like, "Hey girl!" "Hey buddy!" I find that speaking like I'm Fat Albert, "Hey hey hey!" is a great choice to alleviate tension. There are a myriad of options.
I'm not always perfect at this. There are days when I somehow manage to look through people and not respond to their greetings until a full 3 seconds have passed or when I'm exhausted, I have on occasion spent 5 seconds trying to figure out where I know someone from. Overall, I have been on the receiving end far more than the giving end.
There are a few reactions over the years that have been my favorite.
- Look at me with a blank face, saying nothing and giving no acknowledgement that they heard what I said.
- With a straight face, no hint of a smile, they tell me they don't know my name.
- Awkwardly dodging my gaze and pretending they couldn't hear me.
- Giggling for a moment. Silence. "What's your name?"
- Silence. "Um. Hi?"
- Stuttering different sounds to see which one I respond to. "D-d-d...no...T-t-t...nope..."
You get the picture. This isn't an individual problem; it happens to all of us. I only wish that our culture were more comfortable with acknowledging the existence of others even if you don't know their name. Sometimes I play a game on campus where I smile at people I don't know, just to see their different reactions. I see a variety: fear, bewilderment, astonishment, mocking, the entire range. My favorite, however, is when they look at me and smile back. I'm calling for a social movement here where society will come to acknowledge people other than their roommates or people they know directly.
Or perhaps I will simply fall back into the mindset of the masses, where people walk around with their eyes glued to the ground, dodging glances everywhere they go. Perhaps I will choose to only talk to people I know and ignore everyone else. Maybe I'll choose to live as a hermit and only talk to my plants.