Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Smile from a Stranger.

A couple of months ago, I was on a routine car journey, travelling along a busy street in town when something out of the ordinary happened.
    Firstly, I should explain that pedestrians wishing the cross this busy street usually wait at an island in the road for an opportune gap in the traffic.  I have become so accustomed to there always being someone on this island that I have developed an automatic reflex of slowing down to allow pedestrians to cross here without giving it much thought. I'm usually in mid-conversation with the kids or singing along to the radio when I give the waiting person a quick gesture of my hand or a flash of the headlights.  People generally respond with a wave of the hand or a nod of the head by way of a thank you.
    This particular mundane journey, however, has wedged itself into my memory because the man that I gestured to cross the road stunned me with his gratitude.  It was nothing over the top.  He didn't bow down in worship or blow me kisses; that would've made me feel uncomfortable.  No, it was just his smile.  It was a genuine smile.  And it hit me like a bolt of lightning.
    As I drove on, I was left feeling very thoughtful and analytical.  Why did I feel such a reaction to this guy's smile?  It wasn't a physical attraction or a romantic moment, although it definitely felt uplifting and addictive.  But then, people smile all the time, right?  Wrong.  Within the next hour of 'people watching' I came to realise that a genuine, tooth-revealing, eye-sparkling smile from a complete stranger is actually quite a rare thing.  Even to have made eye contact with this guy was something of an achievement.  That's not to say that common courtesy is dead; it's not.  People still hold doors open and say thank you to drivers at a zebra crossing, but do they do it with a smile?
    Has being so connected with the world through text messaging and social media made us less social on the street?  I wonder how many people miss the opportunity to smile at a stranger because they are busy texting or tweeting a smiley face to someone on their phone!
    I have certainly been made more aware of how I interact with strangers.  I too am guilty of being so wrapped up in my own busy life to remember that my facial expression makes a difference to a stranger on the street.  I am going to do my best to change this though, one smile at a time.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hi, my name is Anna-Marie.

People generally respond to this introduction with 'So what do people call you?'  Well, it's hard to believe I know, but my nearest and dearest do tend to call me by my full name Anna-Marie.  All four syllables of it.  Much to my disappointment, no-one has ever tried to shorten my name.
    Perhaps it's the prudish English part of me that shies away from my long name.  Europeans with their beautiful rolling Rs seem to positively thrive on long flowing names.  Look at Isabella Rosselini and Antonio Banderas; don't those names sound perfectly divine?  Although, when I hear the name Engelbert Humperdinck I am grateful for my own name.  Did this guy really choose this for his own name?  I bet if his parents had chosen this name for him at birth he would've given anything to be called Arnold Dorsey throughout his school days.  Joking aside, it would seem that Humperdinck's ridiculous name has been the key to his success.  Perhaps I am looking at this all wrong.  In order to establish a writing career, perhaps I should consider a weird pseudo name.  How about Ermintrude Tiddlywink?  I'm serious; all suggestions welcome. 
    Now I come to think about long names, I can recall lots of book characters with four syllable Christian names.  I'm guessing that if I mention the names Elizabeth, Penelope or Angelina you would be able to immediately think of a book character for at least two of them.  I have never come across a book character with the name Anna-Marie though.  It just doesn't roll off the tongue in the same way, does it?  If you ever happen upon an amazing character named Anna-Marie, please let me know.  Perhaps I just need to relate my name to a remarkable heroine in order to become assertive in my introductions.  If Hermione Granger had only been called Anna-Marie Granger...