I think nearly everyone craves predictability, repetition and no surprises in the first hour or two of their day. I know I do. For me, every week day starts with a shower and coffee, jollying my daughter out the door, a walk to the school bus stop, gabbing with the bus stop parents and then a walk around the neighborhood.
The walk is nearly always the same route at roughly the same time. As you might imagine, I typically see many of the same faces along the way. There are the people I see just about every day - Bob the crossing guard, Tom at the Variety Store, and Jeff walking his dog at Braceland Park . Then there are the people I tend to cross paths with on the street a few times a week. These are people I don’t really know other than we’re on the same schedule. We exchange a few words, a smile, a nod – just some kind of simple acknowledgment of our shared routines. The regularity of it all is just what I like first thing in the morning.
Not long after I first began this daily routine a few years ago, I passed a stranger on the street one day and gave him a friendly “good morning”. He glared at me, and barked out an extremely hostile "a#&%ole" in response. I was completely shocked and taken aback ... and then he was gone. I couldn’t figure out what I had done. Somehow I seemed to really tick this guy off in some unimaginable way.
A few days later the exact same thing happened again in exactly the same way. I started asking around and it turned out that everyone in the neighborhood knows the guy. He had some kind of accident some number of years back and he’s not quite right in the head. A few folks who knew him way back then said that he was always an unpleasant guy and that after the accident he just became even more ornery. Once I realized that his overt hostility wasn’t particular to me I relaxed a bit about it.
Ever since, I see him two or three mornings a week. Every time we cross paths I give him a smile and a “good morning” and he gives me a guttural “a#&%ole” in return. It’s one bizarre bit of social interaction and for some hard to pinpoint reason, I quite enjoy it in some strange way.
He’s a well known presence around the neighborhood. He’s been banned from a few stores. Many folks go out of their way to avoid crossing paths with him. I’ve heard a number of stories from a number of people about various types of anti-social behavior people have seen him involved in. All in all, he seems like a miserable, unpleasant and unhappy guy. I often wonder whether he takes any pleasure in our regular “conversations” or whether this regular morning exchange just infuriates him. It’s very hard to know.
In any case, it’s certainly a strange morning ritual. On those days when we don’t cross paths, I sort of miss having this strange guy lock eyes with me and spit out a vicious "a#&%ole" at me, to start my day.