"Look Me in the Eye and Say That . . . "


I was reflecting back on my southern upbringing yesterday. But, like any good southerner - with a passion for storytelling - there's a long circuitous tale attached to that simple statement.

I hadn't always lived in the South. My father was in the military during the first 10 or so years of my life - so my earliest memories are of Air Force bases around the states (and the world.) But, we moved to Mississippi when I was in the 6th grade and stayed through college - so most of my upbringing was there.

But, of course, I need to digress.

Late yesterday afternoon I went for a long run along the Hudson River after a busy day of being in New York. I wanted to get some exercise in - and adding a little sight-seeing along the west side of the city seemed a great idea. So off I headed to the marvelous Hudson River Park with the iPod in tow (and some freshly downloaded GLEE soundtrack) - for a few miles much needed running. It's a beautiful park. And a great place to run. But, what (you might ask) does all of this have to do with being from the South?

Well, maybe it's just me - or maybe it was my upbringing - but, I have the very strong habit of looking people directly in the eye. Really making eye contact. Well, in New York - that doesn't happen all that often. It's actually one of the things that I most love about this city - its ability to get things done. To focus. Head down. On task. So I discovered - maybe 20 minutes into my run - and looking directly into the faces of the people running the other direction - that I was basically *cruising* practically everyone I saw. I even got a few winks back.

And laughing to myself . . . my mind began to wander . . .

Back to a simpler road. A road not bordered on both sides with power lines. A road where pavement might suddenly surrender itself to gravel. A place where we would always wave at the driver of the cars in oncoming traffic - I have such a strong memory of doing this. Just a simple wave. Maybe a nod. Just to be nice. Who knows, it might be a relative . . . lol.

Back to the little town where I grew up. A little town of just under 7000 people - where the likelihood of there being a relative in oncoming traffic was quite high. Or, if not a cousin - at the very least - someone you knew from church.

A little town where Main Street is crossed by Court Ave (where the court house stands) and bisects North and South Church Street (where many of our churches are). And a time when we played outside without the added entertainment of the soundtrack from GLEE. We played outside because there were only 4 television stations showing nothing but afternoon re-runs - and I had seen most every episode of "The Brady Bunch."

Now, I'll own the fact that it was - and is - a small southern town with many of the challenges that most every town faces. And I'll clearly admit - I'm quite sure I've romanticized my memories of growing up there. But, in the middle of my busy day - when I'm focused - and on task - I'll catch someone's eye. And they will truly make eye contact. And I'll smile . . . and I wonder what their long circuitous story might be . . .

here's looking at you kid,


D.B. said…
HA! We're in the same frame of mind. I just posted a long circuitous story about the nostalgia Mad Men has induced. It must be catching.....
Karena said…
Scot, very interesting. As I am in Kansas City and spent time in the summers at family farms...we were always told to be polite and look at people.(being respectful and friendly) How did life become so de-persoanlized?

Art by Karena
rikshaw design said…
LOL...my FAAAtha would always say "darlin you look people right in the eye, its a sign of respect"..
Margot said…
I also look people in the eye -- dunno why. Some smile back but mostly it just means that I get asked for directions A LOT. Never forget the first time I was in London I was asked for directions within the first hour of getting off the plane. Funny thing was I had the answer --the person was looking for Buck House so it was easy. Has happened to me in Paris and LA and NYC.
Dumbwit Tellher said…
I could definitley relate to what you were writing about Scot. I grew up in a small town and learned at a young age that you look @ someone square in the eyes when speaking. It seemed like a sign of respect I guess. Your childhood sounds like a good one. Small towns do seem magical even if it's only in our own mind. Brady Bunch was all good wasn't it?

Happy, sleepy Sunday to you ~
Love the post, I can relate to much of it.
Mrs. Blandings said…
I loved this post. I look people in the eye, too, and talk to them, which also seems unsettling. Scary even. So glad you're not giving it up.
Yes, look people in the eye when you speak to them! And, how about those "other" types who are always looking around while you are talking...beyond rude...my thought if your are bored...move on to whatever it is that "seems" better in your shallow mind!!!
Angela said…
Try living in Tokyo, Japan, no one looks anyone in the eye, oh except if you have a very cute dog (which I have) or maybe they are looking at my very cute puppy ! No one looks at anyone in the eye. After living here for 1 and a half very long years, I too rarely make eye contact. Next week I will be traveling back to Europe (Belgium and England) and maybe I can "adapt" for that short period of time and look everyone in the eye, smile and say hello!, now wouldn't that be a breathe of fresh air!

Thanks Scot for an "eye opener"!!!!

Angela xoxo
I love love that last photo - oh, I want to jump in that water right now! I went to high school right down the block from that third picture (it didn't look anything like that then - more like rows of parking lots, no trees anywhere - those shiny buildings weren't there either), so I am not very good at looking anyone in the eye, but I am learning. ; )

Thank you for your blog - I am new to it and enjoy it.


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