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Fleeting Greetings
tao tao holmes 10 arts entertainment editor volume 84
May 27, 2010

We’ve all experienced it: the awkward antics of passing by a pseudo-student-acquaintance on a walkway, quad, or hall. It’s a daily occurrence—leaving your dorm for sixth period and shuffling down the brick by that freshman boy you think is named Ted, but maybe it’s Tim?; crossing senior grass from the opposite direction of that girl who was on your third’s lacrosse team freshman year but to whom you haven’t spoken since; walking past *insert name here* about whom you’ve heard so many rumors.

It was sophomore spring, when the sun was out longer. I began to notice trees which had never existed before, and as that infectious spring fever took hold, I decided with a certain stubborn conviction that, from then on, I was going to say hi to every single person I passed by on campus. Easy, right? Well, not so much.

For the most part, Deerfield students have mastered the subtle formula of fleeting greetings. Timing is essential: making eye contact too early or too late results in immediate abortion of any greeting procedure and potential awkwardness. Most people implement the ground-stare or sky-stare until the consistently-shrinking distance between them and oncoming traffic is ten feet or less.

At this point, both parties punctually raise or lower their heads from imaginary cogitations, assume an approximately one-and-a-half-second mutual regard, after which they proceed to return to the pensive preoccupation of ensuring that each foot falls in correct placement in front of the other. Speaking too early results in discomfited silence and a hasty jab at a follow-up comment, the subject of which 90 percent of the time is the weather. However, in my quest to greet everybody, I failed to factor in the extenuating circumstances that too often arise.

This refers to all of those—and there are a considerable number—who are utterly incompetent at greeting those they pass. People seldom say hello even on the emptiest of city streets, to unknown peers in much larger schools, or basically, in most places in general, so I guess it’s a practice many might not be used to. Maybe that’s a reason students so ardently prefer walking in groups even the shortest of distances; it eliminates the obligation of implementing the formula of fleeting greetings in the likelihood of a solo pedestrian approaching from the othe way.

There are always those cringingly awkward people who spend more effort laboring over how to avoid eye contact and verbal exchange than it would take to say hi and get it over with. Yes, exactly—those people who upon entering a ten-foot zone suddenly spot a pterodactyl, become engrossed in whether their shoes are Nike or Adidas, or use a cop-out by sending a redundant text on their BlackBerry or iPhone. If you know that you fall under one of these categories, please review the Fleeting Greeting Formula, described earlier.

So, that’s sort of bad, but these passers-by at least feign preoccupation. The worst are the people who don’t avoid, but flat-out ignore the attempts of others to exchange a pleasantry. Perhaps that’s another reason students sometimes don’t even bother to try saying hello—they’ve mustered previous attempts and garnered no responses. Fortunately, this behavior is rare, though it is still out there, awaiting elimination.

When it reaches that point when I feel I might as well be walking past a brick wall, there remains no other solution but to impose a salutation by verbally accosting him or her. I prefer to avoid this scenario, as it puts the other party in creeped-out discomfort.

In the end, all of that was a verbose way of reminding everyone to say hi to one another. Our campus bubble is small and we’re only here for so long; why don’t we all follow the simple formula and acknowledge who we’re sharing Deerfield with?