I wander into the semi-darkness/darkness every morning to walk or jog. Always have. I wake early. Much earlier that everyone else in my house. I figure I should use the time wisely before the madness of the day begins. Early morning walks/jogs are very popular in my neck of the woods, so I pass loads of people in my travels. And I’ve discovered there’s an art to greeting each one. Here’s the mental (both meanings) classification system I use:
Builders, tradies, gardeners: studiously avoid eye contact and dart past as quickly as possible. Fret they’ll snigger at my middle-aged spread.
Elderly men with dogs: friendly smile with warm glance at dog. Poor old bloke, he might only have the pup to keep him company.
Elderly men without dogs: polite smile. Might be dirty old men, best not to appear too friendly.
Middle-aged women with dogs: polite smile, except when they’re sitting in the children’s playground reading the newspaper while their pooch uses the equipment as its toilet. Then I glare and pretend to call the police/council to report them. This can be fairly non-threatening when I don’t have my phone with me.
Middle-aged women walking together: quick glance to assess whether they’re going to acknowledge me, generally they don’t, so poke my tongue out (no I don’t) and keep going.
Middle-aged women walking alone: could go either way – I’ll either be totally ignored or warmly greeted. So I keep my eyes friendly and a half-smile ready just in case.
Couples: another half-smile-at-the-ready situation. Couples are the trickiest to read. They can be stonier than the gangs of middle-aged women, or one will be friendly and one will glare (“don’t you dare be flirtateous with my husband at 6am you Lorna Jane-clad hussy”).
Men in business suits: closed-mouth, business-like smile (not with my eyes, as the ones who go to work in the dark must be cold machines or crazy workaholics, not that I’m judgemental or anything).
Boys in private school uniforms: totally ignore. They don’t want some sweaty, middle-aged woman grinning at them … but feel fleeting pity that they are a) catching a bus to school in the dark, and b) forced to wear a silly boater hat.
Young women: oddly, I don’t see many of those – their kids must wake earlier than mine - apart from the occasional one with a pram, who gets a sympathetic, thank-god-its-not-me smile.
Elderly women: if they’re having a shouty conversation with each other due to deafness or greeting each other loudly across a road on a peaceful suburban street, they get a glare and a finger to the lips. Honestly. I’m like that. Policewoman of the world.
Touched guy from down the street: a cheery hello while increasing my pace to a sprint to avoid conversation.
Fellow joggers: curt nod of mutual acknowledgement while assessing their form and exercise gear. What possesses some men to work out in board shorts is beyond me. Don’t they chafe?
Teenaged boys: downcast eyes and increased pace, just in case they’re the local teen pervert who crash-tackled a middle-aged female jogger recently to feel her boobies (he has a mummy fetish).
HAVE I MISSED ANYONE? LET ME KNOW IF YOU GREET ANY OTHER CLICHES IN THE MORNING …