I see her every time I run.
While on the homestretch of my workout, I see the woman on the bike approaching from the other direction. Sometimes I even hear her before I see her, the sound of her slender wheels cutting through the water on the trail announcing her approach. Her chin-length hair curls out from under her olive green newsboy cap. She hunches over the handle bars, her over-sized t-shirt billowing around her small frame as she pedals. Two large saddlebags hang over her rear wheel.
She never looks up, keeps her eyes trained on the trail ahead of her. She doesn’t listen to music, doesn’t gaze out at the cornfields on her left or the changing foliage on her right. She looks straight ahead.
The first time I saw her, I turned and smiled and called out my standard “Good morning!” She did look at me that time, but didn’t return the greeting, just turned back to the trail and pedaled on down the road.
Like me, most of the other folks on the trail – runners, joggers, walkers, parents with strollers – look up when they pass a fellow traveler and offer their own form of greeting: a smile, a nod, a cheery “Chilly out this morning!”
But she never does. Even if she and I are the only people anywhere in sight, she keeps her eyes focused ahead and speeds past me as though I am nothing more than a deer in the woods or the bark on the tree.
And for some reason I take this personally. I decide that she’s rude. Or odd. Or antisocial. That she has an attitude problem.
I don’t stop to think about why she doesn’t smile. Or even make eye contact. What might be weighing down her shoulders, what load she is carrying in those saddlebags. Maybe she just wants to be left alone. Maybe she wants this chance to work out a problem in her head with only the trees and squirrels for company. Maybe she is biking toward something she’d rather be headed away from.
Are you the kind of person who makes eye contact and smiles at passersby? What do you think this tendency says about you?
Do you ever make up back stories for strangers?