I've always carried this with me, except I find it hard to talk to strangers.
Some of us live in boxes, within larger boxes, beside even larger boxes. By boxes I mean apartments, by bigger boxes I mean apartment buildings. Some prefer swiping an app, than making eye contact. We live in our headphones, as we walk down the street.
While I have plenty of friends to hang out with, none of them reside in the new(ish) building that I dwell in. I sometimes feel like my life should be more like an episode of Friends, or New Girl; basically any show where the majority of the time people are hanging out in apartments with their neighbours. Hiiiii Chandler and Joey, wanna come over for pizza?
The other day I stood in front of a man who I've seen a few times in my building's elevator. When we made eye contact, I pretended to read the sushi menu from the junk mail I was holding. I did not look back up until my floor button lit up, and then I ran off.
Why didn't I say hello? I don't know. Was he attractive? I don't know. (Lies, he was).
All elevator crushes aside, sometimes speaking to strangers can feel like the most debilitating thing. You don't want to be annoying. No one wants to initiate small talk, or worse, you smile at someone and they look at you as if you just took a photo up their skirt.
In 2005, Starbucks launched their 'The Way I See It' campaign and printed a variety of quotes on their cups. I remember reading this quote by Augusten Burroughs, at a time when I wasn't even living in a big city, and writing it down.
"I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word."
Now to be clear, I'm not trying to say hello to people to get married (way to scare off any man, elevator riding or not, who Google stalks me and finds this post). Saying hello isn't even about picking someone up. It's about being friendly and open, making a small connection. Moving forward, I'm going to try and abandon take-out menu reading, and just.say.hi.
If all else fails, I'll just carry around the above baby panda photo and point to it. Who could not say hello to that?