So there is this girl I used to go to school with. Let’s call her ‘Lisa’.
I was never that close to Lisa. We didn’t eat lunch together, or sit next to each other in class. We were never paired up for a project, or even spoke that regularly. We did however acknowledge each other’s presence every now and then – a nod and smile as we passed each other in the hall way and sometimes, if we were feeling quite vicarious, a “Hi, how are you going?” every now and then.
Lisa was never a friend, nor was she was never an enemy. She was an acquaintance, a classmate, and nothing more.
Four years ago we graduated from high school and both of us, amongst others, went to the same university. We did not study the same course, nor were we on the same campus for much of the time. We did, however, run into each other every now and then.
The first few times this happened, we said hello to each other and had a short conversation. Nothing major, but just acknowledging that we knew each other from our past.
A couple of years of this passed on, our random meetings becoming less and less common. She never thought of me, I never thought of her. It wasn’t an issue, nor was it anything at all. They were average interactions between two old acquaintances.
There was a day, however, last year in March. The semester had just begun and I found myself walking through a relatively busy corridor. I saw Lisa ahead, walking in the opposite direction. I looked at her, making an effort to acknowledge that I’d seen her, only planning only to say hello and continue on my path.
I made eye contact and saw that she had seen me. As I proceeded to smile and say hi, I saw her turn away and just walk past.
Now this may just be me being shallow, but when was the point where we stopped being acquaintances? When did the nod–smile combination stop applying as a greeting? When did she become some kind of inhumane, psychotic bitch?
(I may have taken that too far)
Regardless, I eventually accepted that I was not worth the effort of acknowledgment. I got over it fairly quickly, but I will admit that it did stick in the back of my head for a while. Similar instances occurred between Lisa and I a few times over the past few years and I have finally come to peace with the truth.
It did get me thinking, however. How do you decide someone becomes not worth the effort? Is there a systematic process, or just an absence for a particular period of time? Do we all do this? Or just those of us that are generally horrible?
Or is it purely that fact that conversation is effort? The greetings and formalities and finding out information about the lives of people you don’t really care about – it can be a chore.
It’s been a few months since I last saw Lisa. I hadn’t thought about her until this morning. I had just arrived at the train station and I saw an old primary school friend named Julie. She was talking to a friend, whom I didn’t know. I considered stopping and saying hello, but I decided against it. It was a horrible moment when I realised, wow, I’m just like Lisa. I did not bother, with dear Julie. I deemed her ‘not worth the effort’ just like Lisa did to me. It made me realise that, maybe, I was a little harsh on Lisa.
It seems reasonable that we can only have a limited number of friends and acquaintances. We would, otherwise, spend much of our day involved in small talk.
Small talk is awkward. It’s a two or three minute conversation compiling of a beginning, middle and an end. It’s like writing an essay with a word limit that is far too low – you don’t want to get into anything too serious cause then you’ll go over. You could talk about anything and everything, but it’s probably more effective to focus on one point in particular. And, you have to find an interesting way to sum everything up and find a way to finish up. Extra marks for succinct language and marks will be lost for incorrect referencing.
I probably won’t see Lisa again very soon. It’s safe to say that our relationship has fizzled out into nothing and that neither of us really mind that it’s gone that way. It’s not that she’s a bad person or rude in any way. It’s just how these things work out.
Or maybe she just really hates me?