A blue saucer of greying milk tops Ashland as I walk this morning. With thermometers playing in the low 30s field, it could be ice milk greying up there. Naturally a guy without a shirt went by on a skateboard. Oregon; you have to love its people.
I've completed my six month study of people exchanging hello with me when I walk. I've been a passionate adult walker for decades. I prefer the stairs over escalators and elevators, and walking over trains, trams, buses and cars. I even eschew moving sidewalks.
Back in my early walking days, a Psychology Today article noted that Americans are less likely to say hello to one another when walking. We're more likely to not look at you at all. The study attributed that to Amerians' sense of space and privacy.
I don't know if that's still true but it fueled a behavior change in me. I wasn't going to be like other Americans. If I encounter you, I will say hello. I'll also hold the door for you and let you precede me.
Other people don't feel like me. They don't say hello. Since I walk the same routes almost every day here in Ashland, I began tracking what groups of people are most likely to return my greetings. Except for a few interesting twists, females dominate either end of my informal findings.
White women who appear to be in their mid-forties and older are most likely to exchange greetings with me. As a group, they're over ninety percent. Black, Hspanic, and Asian women of that same group are at zero. Strange and disappointing, and I wondered what drove that behavior.
Down on the bottom are young adult women. No matter what their race, if they appear younger than thirty, they're not likely to speak to me - or look at me. Their eyes are tacked on the far horizon. The likelikhood of one of them saying hello or anything back is about one in thirty-three.
Before you think this is a sex or threat matter for this group, only one in twenty-five young adult men are likely to say hello back and they do the same thing with their eyes. So maybe instead of a sex or threat issue, it's a young adult socialization matter.
There was an exception to that finding in that if it was a young adult woman with a stroller, she was likely to exchange greetings one out of every four times.
White men above thirty years old are likely to exchange greetings about thirty three percent of the time, or one in three. That surprised me. I thought it would be higher. Another surprise was that black men of that age group will exchange greetings almost 100% of the time. Other races of men above 30 years old are ambivalent, fluctuating around one in two exchanging greetings. Mixed sex couples followed the same age and race breaks, with young adults usually not saying anything back while those who appeared to be over 30 likely to say hello back four out of five times.
Of special interest were joggers. Joggers are more likely to say hello back - usually in a quick breath - if they are alone or in a pair - about 75% of the time. More than two joggers, they'll say nothing, and this has been true regardless of sex, race or age. What does affect their willingness to answer when they're alone or in a pair seems to be the path. That makes sense. Hard to avoid tripping while running on these uneven paths while talking to someone else.
I tried variations to saying hello, wondering how much I influenced the results besides being a white man in his mid fifties. I usually say, "Hello," but I tried, "Hi," "Hey," "Good day," "Good morning," "Good afternoon," and "How's it going?" The variations didn't change the results. Being unshaven didn't change anything. Smiling did not change anything, nor did my volume. Also, curiously, it didn't matter if my wife was walking with me.
Oddly, holidays didn't affect the results. One thing that did affect the results was the weather. If it was a cold, icy day or it was raining heavily, people were more likely to smile and say hello back, exept for young adult women who aren't white.
I'll keep studying it as our weather move into summer. It'll be interesting to see if it's different when the weather is hot.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com