the awkward address



Picture this: you’re walking through a park when someone approaches from the opposite direction, chirping, “Morning!” Do you: a) chirp it right back at them; or b) fumble around with your vocal cords until an indecipher­able squeak comes out, by which time the other person is already five metres away and out of auditory range? If you answered b, we’re kindred spirits.

Firstly, to address the giant, tusked mammal in the room, why the hell is “morning” a greeting, anyway? I remember walking the dogs along the beach with Dad as a kid, as he exchanged casual, holiday-drenched “morning”s with everyone who walked past. I was confused. “Dad… why don’t you say ‘good morning’?” I asked. Why announce a vague time period at people instead of using an actual greeting? When did everyone agree to drop the “good”? If we’re so time-poor, why not drop the two-syllable word instead? “Morning” doesn’t mean anything! My eight-year-old brain was fried.

It’s still fried, to be honest. I’ve never been able to utter a “morning” in the decades since. But now, I’ve got a whole different set of issues to deal with. When someone walks towards me on a path, it’s like a deranged timer starts ticking in my head, counting the seconds until I may or may not have to say something to acknowledg­e the other person’s existence. I’m not anti-greeting, but there are lots of things to consider before you decide whether to go for it or not.

For one, the kind of path you’re on matters. If you greeted everyone you passed on an inner-city footpath during your lunch break, people would think you’re deadset bananas (or that you’re an acquaintan­ce from years back who they cannot remember for the life of them – basketball? No, maybe that weird networking lunch they were forced to attend!). If you’re on a dedicated exercise path through a park, that’s different – you’d expect to cop a few “morning”s. Walking near a body of water? Game on. The “morning”s will flow like a day-one period.

Then there’s the eye contact issue. So, you want to say a friendly “g’day” to someone you’re about to pass – how do you ensure you meet their gaze at the exact moment they look at you? Obviously, staring at them is a bit off-putting (read: serial killer-esque), but miss your opportunit­y and suddenly you’re a complete bitch for not saying hi to that gorgeous nanna in the two-piece tracksuit.

Now we get to a complex situation: the regular passerby. Perhaps the time you go for a walk syncs up with a neighbourh­ood stranger. You’ve said hi a few times, so should you smile a bit more to acknowledg­e the fact you see them literally every day at the same time (wearing the same thing – no judgment, I haven’t washed this windcheate­r in weeks either)? Or is that creepy? Do they just want to go on their daily amble without interactin­g with this needy freak every time they turn the same goddamn corner? Or, conversely, if you don’t say hi one Tuesday, will they take it personally? Are you the reason they felt they didn’t deserve to make a proper post-walk lunch and ate tuna out of a can with a teaspoon instead?

Lastly, you need to consider what to actually say. Obviously “morning” is completely out of the question, unless there’s a “good” at the front. “Hello” seems oddly formal. “Hi” is a good one to quickly squeeze out at rapid-fire if you’ve been caught off-guard. “G’day” is a favourite of mine, but sometimes I involuntar­ily do this weird salute thing with it and oh god why do I even leave the house ever?

Ah, strangers. Thank god you don’t know what goes on in my head as you walk past. Unless you’ve read this, that is.

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