The People You Meet

Another decent length ride today, and in the three hours I was out I found myself thinking about the people I was meeting.

There are always any number of interactions with vehicles during a ride which are neither here nor there: the vehicle passes you going one way or another. There are often a few where I’ll do something considerate and that will be acknowledged with a wave or similar, or a driver will be helpful to me and I’ll acknowledge that. That was true today on four different occasions and that’s fine, but what’s to note is that there’s never any person-to-person communcation of any sort in the normal run of things; there has to be some (relatively) unusually considerate act first.

There were plenty of cyclists around today and the normal way of things is that cyclists acknowledge each other. (Po-faced club riders are the only regular exceptions.) That was true today – I lost count but I greeted and was greeted by riders of varying abilities and ages.

There were very few pedestrians on the non-urban parts of the route. Of the ones I came across, all of those that were alone – a lady posting a letter, a jogger, a chap cutting grass and a walker – said hello.

I think the interactions with drivers are probably in their own class because they’re born out of what I’d call normal politeness in response to a specific event. That’s not to say they’re unimportant.

Talking of importance, I know none of the other interactions – the ones with cyclists or pedestrians – are hugely significant in the big scheme. These aren’t people who’d come to my funeral. They might help if they saw me crashed by the side of the road but so would many a driver.

What’s interesting in all this is that I also rode by dozens of people in built-up areas – Wallingford, Henley, Caversham – and I doubt if I even registered in their consciousness in anything other than the most fleeting way. Certainly, there were no greetings – and just as interestingly, I didn’t expect any and nor did I make the first move either.

I can only conclude that ignoring each other is a function of the context, the urban environment. I rather doubt that says anything good about urban living – or at least urban living as we currently live it. I can’t see it inherently has to unfriendly. It is how we expect it to be and thus make it.

The real issue to explore is why we expect it to be like that; it does nothing for the overall quality of life.

The Path To Hell (Is Paved With Good Intentions)

Perhaps we should all sit down on a public seat at least once a week and say hello to a passing stranger. I could sit here and ponder how the path to hell is paved with good intentions.