More often than not, when you pass someone on the street, you both look straight ahead (or to the side as if suddenly fascinated by something) and pretend as if the other person does not exist. The more socially inclined of you may raise your head nonchalantly, or raise your eyebrows in a hip “Hey there” fashion, but nothing more. When did this happen? I think the behavior is definitely population related, and now that we’ve reached near-critical mass, individual strangers are not as novel as they used to be.

I’m sure that in Olden Tymes, every human being you stumbled upon in your lonely existence was worth at least a 20 minute chat; and, most likely, the trading of beaver pelts and valuable chiffon, as evinced by the following scene:

scene opens, two Davy Crockett-esque woodsmen approach each other along a wooden trail. Each carries a pack of belongings and required Thanksgiving-lithograph-of-Pilgrim’s musket
Guy 1: “Hail stranger, well met!”
Guy 2: “Hail, yon traveler. How doth this goodly day find thee?”
1: “Can’t complain, yo, have you any chiffon or news from town?”
2: “You knowz I do, G, bling-bling!”

etc. etc.

Somewhere along the line, though, there were eventually enough people, and we were autonomous enough, to not have a need for friendliness. I wonder about the day that all came to pass. I envision the two same woodsmen, perhaps with horses and carts by now, approaching each other along the same, though now well-traveled, path. One looking up to see the other, drawing a deep breath to exclaim, “Hail stranger, well met!” yet again; pausing, considering inwardly, and audibly muttering, “meh…” and continuing on his way, suddenly struck by the way the sun plays in his wheel spokes…

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