It’s called being polite
“IT’S like going for a walk with Crocodile ******* Dundee,” she said. “What, as in a tall, tough, rugged rugby playing Australian-type?” is what I should have said, but I only thought of it now, 25 years later.
I’d barely greeted 20 people on our walk round a couple of local villages, hardly comparable to the epic friendliness displayed by the Australian title character of the mid-80s film.
We’d gone for a walk down to the beck side. “What’s a beck?” she had asked.
As we perambulated (over-elaborate attempt to avoid using the word walk (damn, done it now anyway) in two consecutive sentences) I said “hello”, “afternoon”, “all right” and such like to a number of people travelling in the opposite direction. Mostly they responded likewise and on occasion initiated the pleasantries.
“How do you know so many people?” she asked.
“I don’t. I know some of them, but most I’ve never seen before.”
“Well, why do you keep speaking to them then and talking to them as if you’re their friend?”
“It’s called being polite. It’s less awkward than looking the other way at the last minute and totally ignoring the one person going in the opposite direction.”
“Well I never do that. It’s like going for a walk with Croc...”
“That's because you come from a city and it would be ridiculous to greet every person you saw. Also, you’re rude...”
The relationship was never going to work. It didn’t. She moved on. Did better. Probably met one of those people who makes eye contact as they walk towards you then looks away just as you’ve gone past that moment when you can successfully pull out of offering a greeting.
I thought of this as my daily two mile walk to work and back involves a complex game of judging who to speak to, who to ignore, who to cross the road to avoid and much more I can’t go into here without you thinking there’s something badly wrong with me.
One person I can rely on is the chap, in his 80s — he told me — who walks in the opposite direction at about 8am to pick up his Daily Mirror from the newsagents.
Initially it was just the occasional nod, a good morning, perhaps, then conversations about the weather developed and, depending on the urgency of his shop visit or my need to press on, we might share details of what we have been up to.
I know he has a brother, has had his two Covid jabs and has recently been in hospital. He knows I work at the Advertiser and my partner is very good at gardening and speaks to people while out walking.
I like these conversations and it’s comforting to know they can still take place in an era when most people simply shuffle along with their head down, engrossed in whatever they are looking at on their phone.
If I can persuade a few more people to say hello rather than leg it across the road I might even offer up the odd “G’day cobber” or something equally unfunny. That will soon put an end to it.
Thinking back, she never did like that kangaroo onesie I used to go out walking in. Maybe it was that, not my over-politeness that did for us.