What Happened To Hello?


I was at a store the other day, bringing my purchases to the check-out. The woman behind the register was busy discussing her schedule with the manager standing next to her. She continued her conversation while she scanned my items, put them in a bag, pressed some buttons, and handed me the receipt. She continued her conversation as I took the bag and walked out the door. She never looked at me. We never spoke a word.

Surely, we have all commented at some point about the big-brother machine who is, at this very moment, learning everything about us. Recording for unknown purposes, all there is to know β€” where we shop, how much we spend, what toilet paper we prefer. Technology allows him to know those things by its very nature.

But, have we stopped to think who isn’t knowing us? What conversations we’re not having because of the technology we so readily embrace?

I wonder, often, why we feel the need to be so intravenously connected to our phone, our ipod, our computer, our television. Are we so afraid of our own silence, our own aloneness, that we just can’t unplug?

And I wonder, in the process of staying connected, what are we missing?

The other day, I was walking along a trail that wanders through salt marsh and shoreline. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, cool and bright. An osprey couple soared across the blue sky. The breeze played the marsh grass like song. It was so quiet, a field mouse scurrying nearby interrupted my thoughts, and I stopped to watch him for a while.

And then a woman walked by, cell phone in hand. Her head bent forward watching her feet, she chatted endlessly about her grocery list and her car trouble. Louder, louder, louder…until she passed me and continued on her way. She missed the mouse. She missed me.

I have been blessed by magical conversations, haven’t you? I’ve met best friends. Fallen in love. Been surprised by chance encounters with people I hadn’t known before β€” and now do. We’re all strangers, really, we’re all alone, until we talk to each other. Until we say hello.

From the archives, while I work on finishing my book. Words and photo, Β©2008, Jen Payne.

19 thoughts on “What Happened To Hello?

  1. An excellent article, I see it more and mor eregularly – except when I’m in France, there is still a definite acknowledgement of eahc other whether you are in a shop or a train or the doctors surgery. It’s so basic isn’t it, toa cknowledge each others existanc eon this planet, and so strange that there are those who don’t want to be a part of t.


    1. All over, right? Instead of being present, being in THIS place or with THIS person, we choose to be somewhere else. It IS such a basic, simple thing – hello!


  2. The cashier appears to me to be more rude than wrapped up in technology and the manager needs to learn about managing if he’s allowing that conversation to take priority over kindness to a customer (You).
    The lady on the cell phone loudly discussing her grocery list is also rude and technology DID have a hand in that rudeness AND maybe she was complaining about the same cashier who might have made an error on her list due to said cashier being her inconsiderate self.
    I know what you’re saying about the technology but I love my ‘stuff’. I just have the decency to SET IT ASIDE when I know I should be giving my complete attention to another human being! Many today don’t know the meaning of the word manners. Technology or no technology, people I walk by in the park, in stores, on elevators, in restaurants etc, are forever in a rush and need to learn respect for fellow man/woman. In other words, I HEAR YA!
    Off the soap box…


    1. We need an upgrade on our manners, I think. You know, like Manner v2014. Just a refresh on how to and when to use technology and when to not, how to treat our fellow human beings, and how to not.


  3. There is a section in my poetry book about encounters. It rather dismays my daughter how I end up talking to total strangers rather often. So does my college roommate and if the two of us are together…Her husband does not “get” it either. I find it one of the things that adds fun and joy to my life.


  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the line about being intravenously connected to the electronics!!!!! GREAT blog!!! XXX


  5. I know things weren’t better for all groups of people, but it does seem as if there was more civility in public. Maybe because everyone felt judged if they didn’t act to the norm? Not sure. A heartfelt hello and reply takes very little time out of our “ever so busy and stressful lives.”


    1. It was a different time, for sure. There was more respect for cultural norms, perhaps, for authority? I suppose we all rebel against those things sooner or later, but you’re right, being kind and friendly to one another does not take too much time or effort!


  6. I’m with Gemma about this post’s first example. Nothing high-tech here. Just old-fashioned rudeness. To continue talking to someone else (connecting?) when YOU are the person in front of her to connect to, this predates iPhones and iPods and all the rest.
    I do think Hello retains its power; maybe it takes more effort to say than it used to. And that’s sad.


  7. I will never understand why people talk on the phone while out for a walk. There are so many wonderful things to see and take in, but they are being missed. So sad. 😦


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