Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Does it hurt to smile or did I sleep with you last night?

Once I worked in an office where if I didn't say "Good Morning" when I walked in, the sassy Cuban secretary would scold me by saying in Spanish: "I didn't sleep with you last night, so say good morning."

One of the great mysteries about living in this absolutely stunning city is the indifference that people have for each other.  I want to go as far as saying "unfriendly" but I find in general if I ask for help, directions, or consideration I usually get the assistance I Spanish.  Which is fine with me, but I would imagine a non-Spanish speaker might find it demoralizing. This morning I walked through Peacock Park and greeted 5 people, not one said good morning in return. Only one half smiled and even acknowledged they had been spoken to.

So why is it so hard for Miamians to crack a smile and say good morning to a stranger?  What is it in our local character that when a smiling, happy, morning person like myself makes people want to turn away?  Is it an excessive case of "stranger danger" permeating the metropolis? Could Miamians be so self-obsessed that anyone requires a "proper introduction" before deigning acknowledgement? Or are we just a bunch of assholes? I asked several Miami "experts" about the I Can't Smile Or Say Good Morning phenomenon.

Expert #1. Jon A., Born in Miami in 1936. Resident off and on for 75 years. My Dad. Fidel Castro Theory

My Dad's theory is that because  Fidel is still alive hundreds of thousands of Miamians cannot fully reconcile themselves to living here.  Many believed and raised their children to believe that someday they would return to a paradise idealized in memory and song.  A paradise long since lost.  From his perch in Cuba, he taunts Miamians with alternating threats of Armageddon and inundation with another Mariel. The unresolved status of "exile" or "immigrant" makes people depressed and generally pissy. (similar to the Hugo Chavez syndrome in Venezuelans)

Expert #2. Alfredo . Miami resident for 15years.  I Can't Speak English Theory. My Spouse.
Alfredo's theory is based on the idea that people arrive here not being able to speak English, therefore there is a bit of shame when approached by someone who apparently does.  This embarrassment goes away, but the avoidance becomes habit forming for the rest of their lives, they're conditioned to avoid "good morning" type of people.

Expert #3. Me. Third Generation Miami  Native. Miamians Are Extremely Self-Absorbed Theory.

I feel that the people of Miami are extremely attractive and suffer from the delusion that everybody wants to sleep with them.  I feel that years of social conditioning and competition requires each person to occupy a vast amount of personal space.  People should only enter that space after extended eye contact from ten feet away. Eye contact requires a stare, a glare and a complete scan of that person's outfit, labels and all status symbols.  If, by chance, that person is worthy of acknowledgement a brief smile and a painfully mumbled "good morning" can be extracted.   Should that "good morning" be returned, you are obligated to have sex with that person. Then you never have to say Good Morning to them again.