We are not robots (123RF stock photos)
Every now and then I leave my car in the garage and take a fifteen minute walk to the shops (I am yet to persuade my sister to "lend" me her bicycle). The streets are not particularly made for walking as the sidewalks are narrow and I enter the Claremont Pick n Pay centre through its "backside" where the no- pedestrian signs next to the vehicular booms are dutifully ignored. There are always a few pedestrians passing by on my journey, although this is a quiet sunday, as opposed to the previous saturday where the streets in front of the Newlands Rugby Stadium were buzzing with excited crowds - "WP jou lekker ding!". There are people of various races - a white guy is having his sunday run, a young black student walks past with headphones on, the security guard dozes in his box next to the Sports Science Institute.
I decided to embark on an experiment a few months ago whereby I would attempt to catch eye contact with people as I walked past them and attempt to greet them. This would be mainly in the street but also at the shops. "Attempt" would be the operative word here as I found so simple and basic an action to be a difficult one and positive results were rare. And on the occasion where I could break the "silence" there would be a beautiful and completely satisfying moment of connection (even if only a few seconds long). I further elaborated on this experiment at the Architecture ZA Masterclass that took place in September (Look out for a more detailed post on this soon). It started when I happened to accidentally leave my name label attached to my t-shirt as I was wandering around Buitenkant street and surrounds. The first time somebody walked past me and greeted me by name I was initially embarrassed but it suddenly occurred to me that this most simple "faux pas" had actually brought about an interaction that never would have taken place otherwise. Perhaps this was a way of making the invisible visible and making a bridge across cultures - bringing the inside out. Perhaps.
The most interesting part of developing a mindfulness of how people interact with each other is that you start to notice which types of people are the most open and which are the most closed. You are often surprised. You also develop awareness of yourself and if you are prepared to face it, you will discover that you too are afraid. Why are we afraid of the "other"? Where has our humanity gone? We are not robots.
In case you were wondering, the types of people that are the easiest to spontaneously interact with are mostly the security guards and the car guards (dressed in their not-so-official orange aprons). Perhaps this is because they are the ones who truly understand what it is like to feel invisible...
This blog is about...
My thoughts as I go about visiting interesting places, attending exhibitions and conferences, and the architectural world we live in.