Let a smile be your umbrella. Or, you know, not.

Whenever I walk through a Metro station or a street in D.C., I have to remind myself not to smile at people. I went to a very small Christian school, where most people got into the habit of giving everyone on campus little smiles of acknowledgement, even when they passed people they didn’t know. Now that I’m away from school, it’s hard to get back into my original frame of mind. When you smile at people in D.C., they don’t smile back. They think you’re crazy. They want to cross the street and get away from you. They probably think you’re a terrorist.
Maybe Elaine had the right idea in that episode of Seinfeld where she suggested that everyone wear a nametag so that they would be friendlier. Oh, wait, that didn’t turn out so well. Never mind.

4 Comments so far

  1. (unregistered) on July 27th, 2004 @ 5:38 am

    I had the same thought yesterday as I smiled, said “Hi,” and “No, thank you” to a person handing out pamphlets at the metro entrance. I’ll probably be reported for this.

  2. Michael Darpino (unregistered) on July 27th, 2004 @ 6:24 am

    I used to smile at people the first few years I lived here. Got the same reaction. So I switched to a swift nod of acknowledgement which seems to work much better. Rather than run away screaming, people usually nod back out of reflex before even realizing they’ve done it.

  3. Emily (unregistered) on July 27th, 2004 @ 6:54 am

    I don’t think people mind if you smile at them, I think it’s more the manner in which you do it… If you’re already smiling, and you manage to make eye contact with someone, no big deal. If you make eye contact with someone, then break out into a smile, the person will think “WTF?” because that implies a familiarity between the smiler and the smiled-at, even though you might be complete strangers.

  4. Jenn Brasler (unregistered) on July 27th, 2004 @ 7:30 am

    And that’s the other thing – people in D.C. hate eye contact. I’ve always been taught that it’s polite to make eye contact with people, and now I have to squelch that urge.

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