Dear Mr. Sleepyhead,

Do people we see on a daily basis always have an impact on us? I ask this because very often there are people you see daily that you don’t interact with socially. However, it may be someone you see on the way to or at work and you share a brief smile, or just greet each other. But how much impact has this person had on you?

  • My previous job led me to take the same bus to the metro every morning. Every morning I got onto the bus there would be one empty seat next to a man that was sleeping. He would often wake up and dazedly  looked around, see me, smile, and drift back off to sleep. Before I knew it, I had created a name for him in my head. Strange enough, right? Mr. Sleepyhead. (How creative of me, I know.) And so I would always know that I was on time in the morning if I were on this bus with Mr. Sleepyhead.

Now naturally because I’m still young and studying my job wouldn’t have lasted forever, and in time I stopped taking that morning bus.

Before answering the question, though, I’ll lay out two more examples of daily interaction I have with people I’m not socially acquainted.

  • Each day in the hallway of where I currently study I meet a person. The smile, make an effort to great me and ask how I am, and I reciprocate. The conversation is always short, and some might think it meaningless? But again, I place this under the light of the question. Does this almost daily greeting impact me? 
  • And lastly, when I go out in the evening for a walk, I always seem to find myself going down to one of the local food markets. When I do, I pass by one of the stalls close to the entrance where a man works. We seem to share a gaze more than often, however I will admit that it took me a while to bring myself to smile. (maybe because he’s attractive, or maybe because I’m just too shy at times. I’m not generally in a good mood when I go for a walk.) However, gazes become longer. And each time we pass ways, that always remains.

So to put things in a way I can answer the question I posed:

Mr. Sleepyhead’s impact was not one of importance, surely, however I remember him after months have passed, and it clearly holds meaning. But what is that meaning? Is it simply because I’m always too scared to fall asleep on public transportation in fear of missing my stop? Or is it because there is something calming about his or any other sleeping face? To be honest, I don’t think I can ever know this. Yet I ask myself in order to throw around ideas. Surely there is a reason that you hold memories of strangers amongst all the dear memories you have of the ones who mean the most to you.

As for the person in the hallway (let’s call them Smith just for laughs), I seem to find that the half a minute long conversation we have seems to brighten my day. It’s always nice to receive a smile from a near stranger (link to Sleepyhead?), and perhaps that is why. A simple question such as “How are you?” is one I often have trouble answering once asked by someone I am well acquainted with. If I’m not okay do I lie, or do I tell the truth. Almost always, I find myself lying because I don’t want them to pry. However, with a stranger it’s like you have to return the gesture of a smile and reply as cheerily as you can. And for that reason, maybe at that very point in time, I am a little happy.

The man in the food stall, I’ve never approached him. I don’t have reason to, as he sells things I cannot eat. However, maybe someday I can breach that gaze and spark a conversation somehow. If I ever do, you’ll read as much, honest. But for now,  it is a mere gaze. However cheesy it may sound, the eyes really are windows to the soul. Having someone look so directly at you can be so very nice at times. I’m often intimidated by this because I feel people are reading me. Because you’re being looked at directly at a time when you’re merely passing by, it’s as though no matter how busy the world is and how many people there are around you, you’re still visible and noticeable to someone. They don’t even know you, but in a sense, you share a closeness in those few moments you make eye contact, like a little nod from one soul to another.

Perhaps I’ll do a post on strangers in the near future. I find them oddly fascinating. If we’ve ever met, I bet you were just the same.

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4 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Sleepyhead,

  1. Our lives consist of moments, and I think you’re right that the moments we keep, versus the moments we discard, are based on those moments have some sort of connection with us. Life tends to always be multi-faceted, so life questions rarely have just one answer. Your feelings about falling asleep on the bus PLUS your feelings about a smile with a stranger PLUS who knows what all else.

    And the business about smiling is important. Every interaction we have with others is like dropping a pebble in a pond. The ripples spread and can touch the entire pond. It’s “paying it forward,” it’s “do unto others,” it’s karma, it’s got many names and guises, but the idea is that how you interact with others passes on to how they treat others.

    You do an unexpected, unmotivated kindness to someone, and they may pass it on. Likewise, you do a cold-prickly on someone, they may pass that on, too.

    The question, “How are you?” isn’t a question at all. It’s functionally interchangeable with, “Hello. I hope you are well!” The Vulcans on Star Trek always had a good greeting, I thought:

    “Live long and prosper.”
    “Long life and prosperity.”

    • The last two lines, I loved. I’m a major trekkie.

      There’s a song called Nous Sommes by a band named Hey Rosetta! and the video in particular came to mind when I read your comment. It’s about how, in some way or another, that every person we pass or come in contact with, we are connected to. Even if only for a moment, there is still a connection.

      At a point when I have an umbrella and it is storming, as it so often does here, I share it. It’s a moment you share with a stranger. Much like a smile or a shared notice of something funny. Or perhaps even a passing glance?

      • Yep! And who knows how that sharing of your umbrella rippled through the human field. Perhaps that person did a kindness they might not otherwise have done. Even just being warmer and drying might affect their mood down the road.

        And per quantum physics, we are all literally connected in some fashion. The field equations that describe my quantum state overlap yours and that of everyone else.

        Now,… Trekker or Trekkie? 🙂

  2. Hahahaha, you caught me. Trekker, for sure. I don’t often admit it.
    I hope so. It’s a shame that so many people never even pay attention to their surroundings enough to stop and thank someone just for holding a door open, keeping the elevator waiting, or other menial things. Oh well, one can only try.

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