The friendly people

March 11, 2023 Comments Off on The friendly people

Have you seen any good ads for prosthetic legs lately? I sure have, and I stopped to document it. Judging from the model they do full bionic (old skool), though it looks like you may have to bring your own muffler.

Across the street was a cafe, so I ducked in for a very good cup of coffee and was served by a scowling lady. Which got me to thinking.

“The people in Blahblahstan were friendly.”

“The people in Blahblahstan weren’t very friendly.”

“It’s not a very friendly country.”

“Everyone is so friendly!”

It’s funny how we expect some places to be friendly and others not. The friendly English? The warm and fuzzy Germans?

It’s all in your head. Large swaths of people are not friendly or unfriendly, though individuals certainly can be. With respect to strangers, friendliness is often a function of money and power. Service people are not friendly, they are working, and they do it with a smile or not.

Although I can’t speak to the friendly English, I was treated with extraordinary warmth and kindness by the Germans I became friends with in 1989-1990. Because in fact friendliness, and its counterpart, hostility, are everywhere.

It would be easy and wrong to say that when you behave the way people expect, they’re friendlier. Victims of racial stereotyping know better.

But why is it that when people travel for pleasure they hope to be treated with friendliness? Everyone knows that tourists are nothing more than a buck. People working in the tourist trade aren’t seeking magical moments and deep friendships with the yappy lady (or scruffy cyclist) from LA. And local residents already have all the friends they need, thanks.

The traveler offers nothing but money. Yet we hope that this financial transaction will be accompanied by friendliness, which is bizarre. Who expects friendliness at Wal-Mart? And if the barista at your local Starbucks is smiling, surely you know she doesn’t care about you at all. It’s her job, man.

True friendliness is an overture that is necessary but insufficient for forming real friendship. Friendship only happens when there is a personality match bonded by mutual, if often unequal, need. Expecting that to happen while ordering street tacos? Really?

And then as a cyclist there are those anomalies, the friendly drivers. They wave, toot their horns, hang their heads out the window, and best of all give you a wide berth.

I’m really not sure why. But I know I like it.



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