Most mornings I take my son Kai to school. Unlike most parents who just pull up to the curb and let their kids get out I park my car and walk him into the school. This is what I’m used to doing ever since kindergarten so I’ve just continued doing it. I like being with him in the morning, seeing how he plays with his friends and it also gives me a chance to talk to the other parents. In kindergarten there were many other parents to talk to before school but now, almost all of them just drop the kids off at the curb. I also don’t stay right up to the final bell anymore either but instead just wait until the yard monitors arrive. Unlike my previous job I usually need to get back for conference calls and work pretty quickly.
Now people in the Bay Area aren’t the friendliest of people. Life here is stressful, people have thousands of tasks to achieve every day and must do it all in a pretty crowded environment with traffic and office life. And so I pass most people without saying anything at all, but perhaps because I’m from the Midwest, I leave the opportunity open by glancing their way and if they glance back they get a “good morning!” Teachers and other parents I know will most often give me a good morning back.
There is Danny who is a friendly guy but never learned my name. So when I see him I make it a point to say good morning but also use his name and so it’s “Good Morning Danny!” But since he doesn’t know my name he always calls me “Buddy.” I don’t mind. In fact, I know just about everyone’s name and if I don’t know it I’ll ask and write it down in my note app on my phone so in case I forget I can look it up quickly.
I learned a long time ago that it is important to call people by their names. When you call someone who you encounter infrequently by their name, a subtle almost imperceptible, yet powerful thing happens. It creates one very strong building block in your relationship with them. They may not even realize it but at the subconscious level it makes them feel important. This is because you call people you know well by their names but, what happens when someone you don’t know well calls you by your name? It is rare, it is different it is nice and it makes you feel good. It can also cause a very slight panic because it is most likely that the person does not know your name and so you’ll get a smile but generic “hello” or “How are you” in return.
I enjoy calling people by their names and my secret to remembering is my note app that contains the names of people I usually meet once at least every few months. Only a few other parents on the playground remember my name but I remember all of theirs. Isn’t it interesting in how I seem to be the only one out of this group that has realized the importance of calling people by their names? These are adults but I learned long ago that adults certainly don’t know everything as I had thought they did when I was a kid. In fact, the amount they know is rather disappointing to my childhood expectations but that is another matter.
The title of this post is the “Non-Greeting” and what I really wanted to write about and have finally come to after that long run up. There is a teacher, I’ll call her Mrs. G, who I see often in the mornings and so have made it a point to give a cheery “Good Morning” to. However, she’s not able to give one back and I’ve tried about five times so far. After my “Good Morning!” she’ll avert her eyes downward, give a non-committed, non-smile, and then mumble something.
I sure hope this teacher doesn’t teach a lesson on greetings.
“OK kids, when someone says ‘Good Morning’ to you what do you do? Yes, that’s right, you avert your eyes either away or onto the ground, move your mouth in a way that anticipates a smile but never really gets there or could be interpreted as a grimace and then mumble. The mumble could be just a general “hi” said in a way that expresses your “Good Morning” has slightly annoyed me but due to societal norms, and that I’ll see you many mornings henceforth, I’m required to respond. Or if more effort is put in you could return the “Good Morning” but said in a way that the listener isn’t really sure what you said. It could have been a ‘Good Morning’ or it could have been “GoMorn” or perhaps just “good.” The important point is to make your response unintelligible so the listener can believe they may have received a “good morning” in return but your introversion can rest easy in knowing that you in fact DID NOT wish them a ‘good morning’ at all!”
Since this school is K-8 and my youngest is just about to start kindergarten I am going to see this teacher thousands of times more. It is fun to think about how our morning greetings will develop. With someone introverted like this it is best not to call them by their names straight away. Yes, I know her name is Mrs. G but we do not have a ‘relationship’ yet. I’m just another parent and she is a teacher I do not know and have not formally met. So although I know her name is Mrs. G if I were to add her name to my good morning greeting she might think it odd due to the lack of a formal introduction. Baby steps!
I’m sure one of my boys will have her as a teacher in the future so until then should I just expect a non-greeting with the highlight trying to discern what, if anything is actually said with the mumble? Will eye contact ever be made? Should I mirror the behavior by mumbling my “Good Mornings” to become “Goomer,” along with something that could be interpreted as a smile but could also be a grimace from a different point of view?
I wonder if this is how her parents teacher conferences would go if we did have her as my son’s teacher. She would be compelled to greet us but does so in a way that lets us know she doesn’t really want to and the parent teacher conferences are such a chore and burden. Then the unnatural eye contact which seems forced but she knows she cannot look down at her files 100% of the time. This would of course let us know to only look her in the eyes very sporadically but in knowing that since she is a bit introverted encourages us to rest our own eyes on the desk, on that poster over on the far wall or even the carpet, anywhere but in the eyes of the person you’re speaking with for God’s sakes!
I’ve gotten ahead of myself. For now, let’s take it slowly and just stick with “Good Morning.” If we ever get to a full-on ‘good morning’ with her there are many more questions that follow which will have to be considered.