the obligation line, 19/June/17

there’s a line…. an obligation line……. where urban meets rural…… you’ll know it when you find yourself on a footpath and obliged to acknowledge the person or persons coming towards you with a nod or verbal greeting, or even worse, a badly-formed smile not knowing why or for what you’re smiling except for the nagging obligation of silent etiquette demanding your muscles and vocal chords attend to ‘what’s expected’.… ignoring them merely leaves an expanding black hole of seeping staleness akin to shattering a sacred oath……… worse still, if you pass them later then what, acknowledge and hope this is sufficient repentance to save your soul or repeat, ignore, and be damned?…….

….. this is never an issue in towns and cities where ignoring is part and parcel of everyday life, where such codes have long been dissolved by pollution and overcrowding, but surrounded by greenery and the rules change….. in fact acknowledging a complete stranger can be tantamount to threatening, whereas in the countryside it’s rude not too…….

…. seeing someone coming on my rural wanderings releases the dread-monster of an imminent uninvited interaction as demanded by that unwritten etiquette which will otherwise promise damnation….. if they’re a long way off I can at least prepare myself, albeit with trepidation, as the gap closes on whatever unwillingly unfolds, although this also gives me more time to worry……. at best will be a nod, it might even include a smile, possibly accompanied by a mumbled passing greeting of some kind like (takes a deep breath…) “hello”, or “a’right?”, which is an unquestion designed specifically NOT to elicit an answer……… at worse it’ll morph into a ‘conversation‘, idle chit-chat about something I will undoubtedly be utterly unprepared for…….  if it’s sudden and didn’t see them coming then panic stations, as I ungracefully toppling off the obligation line headlong into the chasm of implausible deniability……

© robert greig 2017


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