Every time I walk around the office, I encounter other people. Sometimes these fellow humanoids are people I know, some well, some by sight only, others I don’t know at all. Quite often they are people I have spoken to several times already that day. Yet no matter who may be walking towards me, we always have the same interaction.
It begins with a kind of slightly embarrassed non-committal corners-of-the-mouth smile, a bit of a nod, and is followed by a vague almost-noise that could possibly mean something along the lines of “Hello person, I’m a person too, and I don’t really know what to say or do so as not to act either too distant or too familiar, even though I assume you are in a similarly awkward state yourself, so let’s just walk on and pretend this never happened, shall we?” although it usually sounds more like “eya”.
Why can’t we manage to walk past each other without having to go to all these lengths? Why can’t we humans just have a neutral mode? A relaxed face that – while not actively ignoring anyone, because that’s just rude, isn’t it Noreen – doesn’t feel the need to express any particular emotion if there is none to express? If I’ve seen someone 3 minutes before, I don’t need to express happiness on seeing them again, it’s not an event, neither positive or negative, it’s just a continuity of their presence in my vicinity and mine in theirs. It doesn’t require a smile, a frown or any type of facial reaction let alone verbal comment. So why do we feel obliged to?
Humans are weird.