I went walking at the weekend. Walking around a country park near us. Walking with my wife.
We played ‘the morning game’.
The one where as people approach along the same path, you say, “Morning.”
Usually they respond. Sometimes not. Usually they return the same “Morning” phrase. Sometimes they nod or smile instead of the verbal exchange. Seldom do they return another phrase. It’s as if we have to be equal – one “Morning” fairly exchanged with a reciprocal “Morning”.
The game is afoot though. One or two of the walkers beat us to it. they “Morning” us before we can “Morning” them. So we have to respond. We have to give back.
My wife and I share responsibility. Sometimes, she imparts the “Morning”, sometimes I do. We play with who is more successful in earning the payback of a returned “Morning”. She wins.
“The morning game” seems safe in the countryside. It’s riskier in the commuter world though. Speaking to strangers on a crowded train. Or in the street.
Maybe it’s the solitude? Just one couple “Morning” another. No onlookers or observers to judge the “Morning”. To gauge its appropriateness; the response it elicits, or to laugh in the face of a failed “Morning” – a “Morning” that falls on fallow earth and remains unreciprocated.
But what is at play here? When we “Morning” an approaching party of walkers, they are usually in their own world. Either chatting themselves, or simply enjoying their surroundings. Suddenly we have interjected into their world. They seem shocked. Maybe it’s surprise that forces the reciprocal utterance? Maybe it’s relief? Relief that they are indeed seen, recognised, noticed? Maybe this simply confirms our existence, and theirs? Maybe we offer a gift, so that we can receive a gift? Or maybe it’s merely a pre-programmed unconscious response? One learned earlier in life? Perhaps it’s an avoidance of guilt? Not wanting to be judged for not responding? Not wanting the shame?
Or maybe it is just as described? A game? Maybe the people we meet are also alive to the “morning game” and are luring us in, so that they can in fact justify their humanity. A stroke for us, and a stroke for them?
Maybe you’ve “Morninged” others? Maybe you have been “Morninged”? What was going on for you?
If not. Now you know, you too can play the “morning game”.