Why Can't Landlubbers be More Like Cruisers?
31 May 2008 | Charleston, SC/Amherst, NS
OK, I admit it right up front - this is a gross oversimplification. But... there are some things on my mind. Can you hear the rant coming?
I left Charleston early Friday morning to fly home to Nova Scotia for a visit with my dad and Jim stayed on board Madcap. We both ended up having experiences that fit this heading. I flew from Charleston to Washington to Ottawa to Toronto to Moncton - that's four flights and five airports. Should be ample opportunity for some conversations and new experiences, right? Wrong. People talked only with those they were accompanying, or they kept their heads in books and papers, or they looked around without focusing on anything. The incident that hit home the most was on the last flight. I had at least been able to exchange a hello with the person seated nearest me on one of the other flights but the last guy foiled me completely.
I had the window seat; the middle one was empty; a short, grey-haired, well-dressed man sat on the aisle. He didn't come anywhere close to making eye contact as he put his briefcase in the overhead compartment or as he sat down. I'm pretty quick to offer a greeting, but I do find it hard to do without eye contact so, even as I read my own book, I kept alert for that opportunity. It never came. He never looked sideways. When the plane finally landed and we all stirred to collect our belongings, his eyes slid across and over me without pausing. I smiled but I might as well have been invisible.
I know that unwanted conversations in tight quarters can be a pain. I know that sometimes we all have things on our minds and don't want to talk. I know some people are shyer than others. I know this was probably just a run of people preoccupied with their own concerns. But... what a loss for us all. In that one particular example, he might have had some really interesting thoughts to share. He might have been interested in what I'm doing. At the very least, we would have acknowledged each other's presence and wished each other a pleasant day. There would have been some kind of communication.
As for Jim - he went to the beach party at the resort that a couple of folks had told him about. When I talked with him on the phone later, he said he stood pretty much by himself. One fellow talked with him but that was all. Folks conversed within their own groups, and we all know it is really hard to break into a closed group - if we even dare to try. The music was good and he enjoyed that. But... how much richer an experience it could have been. (Like the next night when a cruiser from down the dock came along and invited him over for a fabulous evening.)
How did we get to this practice of ignoring the people we are among? When did we stop being interested in others? Why did we start believing it is acceptable to dismiss the traditional patterns of greeting? Whatever happened to the simple joy of, even briefly, meeting someone new?
I like the way they do it in the Bahamas: they wave or nod and say "Hello" and "Goodbye". They ask, "How are you doing?" and maybe they even mean it. Sometimes real conversations evolve.
I like the way cruisers do it - except perhaps in Georgetown, Exumas - I think I grumbled about that a while ago!). We wave and say "Hello" and "Fair Winds". We ask, "Where have you been?" and "Where are you going?" and "What was it like?" and "Are you having a good trip?" and we usually really want to know. Sometimes new friendships are formed; sometimes it is simply best wishes that are exchanged as each boat goes on its way.
Each interaction steadies our keels, adds wind to our sails or gives our engines a boost. Each interaction acknowledges our presence in the world. And Good Grief! How can that not be worth it?!