Monday, June 3, 2013

It Started With A Smile...

Traveling recently, I was in the airport and took a chair in a row about four or five seats away from the nearest person.  As is customary, I looked around surveying the area.  A young Asian lady about five seats away looked at me so  I granted her a smile.  She did not return the informal greeting.  Instead, she quickly diverted her eyes towards the floor, shuffled around nervously for several seconds, then abruptly stood and walked away.  I watched her move two rows behind me and sit down facing the opposite direction.  Wow!  Her reaction communicated a great deal to me without speaking an actual word.  Sure, I could use the extra space around me and I wasn’t really attracted to her pale skin and harsh, jutting under bite, but she clearly moved because I smiled at her.  I simply transmitted a friendly non-verbal greeting.  What in the world would she have done if I’d actually said “Good Morning”?  She’d have probably screamed her silly little head off and set off all sorts of unnecessary alerts in this particular environment.  It was clear she’d moved because of me, but my question was why.  Of course I don’t know the woman or have any clue as to her background.  Quite possibly she’s suffered years of abuse from terrible men.  I wouldn’t have imagined those sorts of predatory monsters commenced with a smile, but the truth is that I really don’t know their methods.  Now the frail little victim is incapable of acknowledging a positive glance from an actual gentleman. 

Or was the problem not really her background of abuse, but maybe it was the quality of my smile.  I grinned in her direction with basic sincerity but maybe she saw it as so hideously disingenuous that she could not bear to have it flashed in her direction for even that brief moment. This too could be a possibility.  I immediately recalled an old photograph of myself which displays a rather distinctive frown.  The story goes that on al elementary school picture day my mother admonished me to “be sure to smile for the camera today.” I proceeded to elementary school with every intention of heeding that advice at the tender age of eight-years-old.  When the time came, I exhibited such a grand smile that the photographer lowered the camera and instructed me: “Don’t growl at me.”  To which I promptly responded by reversing my smile into the extreme frown that is forever frozen on my third grade school portrait.  It is odd that a professional photographer would be both so bored and so child-hating as to create such a situation and then so very bold as to submit that incompetent result as his work. Of course, maybe an even greater questions is why did my parents actually purchased the odd finished product.  But there it is…a confused little boy trying to follow directions and ending up with a photo like this. 

So, maybe that poor little Asian chick was not actually the product of extended abuse after all.  More likely she had only recently visited the zoo and was startled to encounter a strange man baring his teeth in a manner so similar to the hyena.