In the big city, whenever I was out and about among the multitudes, I smiled a hi at the people walking past. Not one smiled back. Not even one. It is not that they did not see me. Even after the visual contact, they simply kept going.
After life in the small town that is precious home to me for fourteen years, well, I have been thoroughly spoiled by my fellow residents. People are friendly. Strangers smile. They even say hi. We recognize the presence of a fellow human.
In the big city, the homeless were the only ones who seemed to recognize me. One nodded his head in acknowledgement.
The older I get, and the more I think about what it means to be human, the more I am troubled by even such things as not even one person smiling back a hello. It is not as if I went half way around the world and behaved in the Eugene manner. Oh wait, I have done that too!
In the big city, there are a lot more people to observe, whether or not anybody cared about my existence there. Humans are fascinating to watch. I have no idea why people watch cat videos on Facebook; observing fellow humans is phenomenally more entertaining and educational at the same time.
I was waiting for the niece in the area that two decades ago a columnist referred to as "urine square." That area has since gone through quite a revival. Rarely did I smell urine there!
One elderly couple walked past me. Each had a cane to help them in their perambulation. The woman walked with the cane on her left and the man--who was walking to her right--held his cane on his right hand. "Don't talk to me" she said in her frail voice. "You know it gives me ulcer."
I am not sure if even the funniest scriptwriters in Hollywood can come up with such scenarios and lines. On the other hand, maybe all they do is hang out and places like these and merely record what they see and hear and then, presto, a movie scene. But, surely Nora Ephron did not watch anything close to that scene in the real world and it was all her imagination.
Of course, most people seem to have a smartphone in their hands. The young seem to look at the screen every other second. One young man, perhaps in his late twenties, slowly walked past me and he was not looking at this smartphone. It turns out that there was a reason--hey, even I could hear the phone giving him instructions. "Now turn left." Directions. In the old days, you could always spot the tourists because they would be the ones holding maps in their hands and looking all confused. With hesitation, they would ask a passerby for help. Now, Siri takes care of all of us wanderers.
If only Siri can remind us to say hello to a fellow human!