I am walking down the street for my first morning walk and a nice lady with a dog is coming towards me.
I don’t pay attention as it is going to be another meaningless passing of two humans minding their own business. Well, there is a twist: the lady raises her head, smiles, and says good morning as she passes. Startled, I stop and look back at her. Do I know her? Nah, she has confused me with someone she knows. Back to the walk, baffled by the pleasant intrusion, a few metres later a handsome middle-aged gentleman is coming towards me. Bang! I am hit with another walk-by smile and a greeting. Stunned, I keep walking. A running father with a stroller, a young woman with a supermarket bag, and a teenager with headphones all shoot me with a smile and greeting. I feel like Sonny Corleone from The Godfather, unexpectedly ambushed; but here the assassins just use smiles rather than bullets.
I am not accustomed to such pleasantries. All my life I have lived in the city centres. Growing up in a rough neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan, a meaningless walk on the street was considered deranged, as it put you in danger of having an unseemly experience. In London, I discovered the fast walkers in big coats, who do not acknowledge your existence even if you are stabbed while passing them. Auckland Central is a different beast: a friendlier bunch, but a latte in one hand and a screen in another doesn’t leave much human emotion to give away smiles willy nilly to passing strangers.
The move to Whangaparāroa is the most pleasant change of location I have made in my life. It might sound sad that I have started walking more just in anticipation of smiling strangers. However, I feel a bond developing with the community. I have mustered enough confidence to throw back a smile and a greeting.
One day I will be brave enough to throw in a “nice dog” or a “lovely weather isn’t it?”. Maybe I will make new friends outside of the Facebook and Instagram voyeuristic universes.
Hibiscus Matters welcomes Ed Amon – our latest columnist. Ed works in marketing by day, but is also a comedian and has a regular spot on RNZ’s The Panel. He also hosts current affairs podcast Baboon Yodel.
Ed moved to the Coast at the start of this year and will initially take a look at the area from a newcomer’s point of view in his column.