I lived in Los Angeles in the mid-eighties. One of the first things I noticed when I moved there was the way in which people would go out of their way to avoid having an interaction with strangers on the street. I’m talking about crossing the street, or ducking into a doorway, or even changing direction to avoid the possibility of having to speak to someone. It didn’t strike the people who had been there for a while as odd. In fact, many of them admitted to having done it. I assured them that no one in Indianapolis did anything like that.
Flash forward to 2014 and I’m sad to say we’ve become more like the Angelinos of the 80s. I walk a lot. In fact, I suspect that walking is my primary mode of transportation these days. I started an experiment a few days ago as I walk around downtown. I go out of my way to interact with people I pass on the street. My first goal is to get them to make eye contact. If I can manage that, I give them a smile and some salutation. I’m sad to say that less than half of the people in my experiment have acknowledged me. A few have taken the active step of crossing the street or changing direction to avoid me.
Have we become so distrusting that a simple hello is a risk? Try it out. See if you can get over half of the people you pass on the street to respond to a greeting.