Monday, January 09, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 3

Unexpected smiles from strangers. Rare as hens' teeth in a big city, where the default mode is the avoidance of eye contact and intently scrolling your smartphone on the train is the human equivalent of a cat stopping to wash itself in the middle of the room (it makes you look Important and Purposeful when you're really just at a loss for something to do). But, lucky me, last week I received two - one in the supermarket (fruit & veg) and one, even less expectedly, on a busy station platform as the 07:39 disgorged its passengers into the morning rush - and both brightened my day out of all proportion to the simplicity of the act itself.

Did the smile-givers have any inkling of how that bold moment of breaking through the invisible but tacitly consensual wall between us would make me feel better for the rest of day?

Or were they just amused by my funny little face?

Well thank you smile-givers, either way: I promise to be less Britishly buttoned-up and to Give as well as Receive in the dark and drizzly winter weeks ahead.

Dusty Springfield - 'Just One Smile' (1967)


  1. I love it when that happens, and I do try to smile at strangers... hopefully not in a creepy way...

    There's a nice Zen question about this: you're walking along, and see somebody coming the other way. You smile at them, and they smile in return. Where does their smile come from?

  2. Definitely another reason to be cheerful.

    I'm a smalltown/village gal..not only do I smile..I say hello.


  3. My Dad, a london boy for most of his life, not only smiled and said 'hello' but would start conversations and, to my eternal shame when I was in the sixth form, used to walk home from the allotment with a basket of veg and offer bits of it to people as he passed them by.

    I am becoming my father although I don't think I'll ever reach stage 3.

    There are people I see on the train every day who I always say hello to if I see them anywhere else, but we're content not even acknowledging each other on the train. Odd.

  4. Remember when you were a kid being winked at by old men in the street? Usually with a chirpy "Alright son?"

    Probably get arrested for doing that now.

  5. When we were en Francais dans le summer I was struck by how everyone would say Bonjour or Bon soir. I tried to keep this up, saying hello t people on the way to the corner shop etc. For about a week.

  6. Yes, I think it's exactly because a smile from a stranger is so rare in a big city that it's so lovely when it happens.

    All of that ritual hello-ing to everyone you pass business they're big on in the country is an entirely different thing.

  7. They were deffo just smiling at the strange man

  8. There's also the traffic light thing- you pull up at a red light, a car pulls up alongside and you both look at each other at the same time and then instantly look away. Always freaks me out a bit.

    Word veri- unoying

  9. Another reason to be cheerful, govt says you only need tolay off it for 2 days a week, a doctor friend of mine told me 3 days, i think I will go with the govt on this one

  10. i could cough at you if you like. it's much the same...

    my every trip out round these here streets is a ooooh hello dear you alright g'morning nodding winking waving and smiles all the way. well done lovely soho. still never raised even a flicker of recognition in the blue posts mind.
    the suprise smile is indeed the most lovely thing

  11. There's seemingly a Care In The Community element when I smile at folk.

    I try most days.

    I think we do talk to folk more as we get older. (Well maybe that's just me?) I suspect it's cos our need to give a shit diminishes - and there's less likelihood of there being an ulterior motive.

    Adam's father had it right. Mind, if I offered a large courgette to a stranger on the 5:15 I'd likely get a slap.

  12. i'm from a place called Finglas in dublin - very rough. keep head down, don't smile or wave or say alright.
    now i live in skerries - small town, folks nearly cross the street to say hello. it can fell like being groped but in a satisfying way. more in an older baby sitter way than a dirty uncle.
    my Ma sez that Skerries is 'very residential' cos of the way folks say hello.
    but the random smile/nod is cool.

    i'm assuming you didn't intend it to sink to this Dave

  13. You take it down ant, we're all with you.

  14. I smiled at a woman on the train once and now when she sees me on their she comes to sit next to me to chat. She's about 50 wears a fur coat and leopardskin print clothes, with an Ang from Eastenders hairdo and way too much cleavage. Full on Bristol accent and doesnt stop talking. That's what a random smile gets you. I don't smile anymore.


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