A Simple Hello

The evening commute home was a scramble as people rushed and crushed onto the train fighting for a place to sit or stand.  A last-minute couple pushed through the door dropping tourist maps in their haste. Forced by the crowd to split up, the man went one way and the woman another.

The woman sat down in the last vacant seat next to where I stood and began to refold maps. Beside her sat a well-dressed business woman who appeared to read something work-related even after a day at the office. The two glanced briefly at each other, said nothing, and went back to their tasks of reading and map folding.

Things calmed as the train doors shut and people settled into seats or places to stand. As we waited for the train to depart, only the rustling of newspapers or the occasional ring of a cell phone could be heard. The two women beside me were silent.

Finished with her reading, the business woman put papers back into a briefcase. The tourist woman fumbled with one last map and slipped it into a tote bag. Each woman stared straight ahead.

The train slowly moved.

Ms. Tourist turned towards Ms. Business.

“Hello.” Ms. Tourist said. That simple sound caught me off guard.

For the most part people say little or nothing on these commutes. Less a function of being unfriendly and more a symptom of preoccupied minds, people say nothing. Me included, but I’ve often wondered how funny, smart, or maybe obnoxious the person next to me might be during any given commute if we only chatted. Still, silence is the norm.

Not even a simple hello.

That’s why Ms. Tourist’s simple “hello” caught Ms. Business off guard as well. She whirled to face Ms. Tourist, stared at her for a second, and gave a “hello” in return. Each smiled slightly then stared straight ahead once again.

Perhaps shocked by the simple approach, seconds later Ms. Business returned the favor. “I saw your maps. Are you here on vacation?” she asked.

Ms. Tourist shook her head yes.

The train sped up.

Where are you from? Ms. Tourist asked.

Philadelphia originally.

Oh really? My son lives there now!

And you? Where are you visiting from?

Atlanta.

How funny! My daughter lives there now!

The train reached full speed.

And so did conversation between Ms. Tourist and Ms. Business. Questions flew, answers flew, and in the process the women discovered they each had family living within miles of the other, had probably crossed paths at several restaurants, and both had grandfathers from North Carolina.

The train was still going full speed when their conversation became louder. The women agreed on movies they loved, books they hated, what humidity did to their hair, and how they wished their husbands didn’t snore so much. They covered politics, parenting, and pantyhose for the remainder of the trip.

As the train slowed to approach the station, Ms. Business plugged Ms. Tourist’s number into her iPhone. When the train came to a stop the women stood, actually hugged goodbye, and Ms. Business hurried through the door to catch her bus.

As the thick crowd exited the train Ms. Tourist rejoined her husband. I followed them onto the escalator and listened as Ms. Tourist excitedly recounted to her husband all she’d learned from the woman beside her, how nice she was, all they had in common, and how they’d probably meet up in Atlanta the next time the woman came to visit her daughter.

As we stepped from the escalator Mr. Tourist stopped and turned to his wife. He looked sincerely puzzled.

“How did you learn all of that? What’s your secret?” he asked laughing. As I walked past them towards my bus I saw Ms. Tourist shrug her shoulders as she explained her secret.

“I said hello.”

Stuart M. Perkins

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236 Comments

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236 responses to “A Simple Hello

  1. Pingback: Free-For-All Friday #7 | Edwina's Episodes

  2. It’s amazing what a simple “hello” can lead to and how often we don’t say this simple word and sit there in awkward silence, hoping someone else will break the ice, while everyone else haa the exact same thought process running through their minds. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story!

  3. Wow! You observed and shared beautifully! Thank you!

  4. There seems to be a vulnerability of ego that discourages a lot of us from making that gesture. The interesting thing, like you pointed out, is that we surprise ourselves at how much we can share with each other. I think it rubs off on observers, too — those of us that are standing around listening in on the conversation; I feel better about people in general and a bit ashamed of myself for not doing it all those times in the past 🙂 Great story and thanks for the follow!

  5. It’s amazing that so often it really is that simple!

  6. Bri

    Reblogged this on Bri and commented:
    Love this, and it’s so true

  7. A simple hello an lead to a meaningful conversation. I ride the train everyday from home to work and it’s a good read for me. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  8. Wunderbar! I too am an eavesdropper on buses and trains. I thought it was a bad thing. You give me courage to continue.

  9. Reblogged this on Surviving Jonkersville and commented:
    HELLO readers

    A five letter word that can hold so much promise and open many doors. It is also a word that’s universally understood no matter what language you speak. Yet I find that a simple HELLO is the most difficult word to say at times. It really does escape me and I won’t delve in and seek answers. At least not today. What I will do is encourage you to read this post I’ve reblogged (not because I’m being a lazy blogger this morning, I actually have lots to say as always).

    A simple HELLO or even a smile can make someones day and cheer them up. You never know what the next person is going through.

    As a lover of random acts of kindness, I encourage you to use your HELLO’s as randaom acts of kindness today.

    I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did.

  10. HELLO! I love this story and it’s oh so true. Simply had to shareand reblogged it. 🙂

  11. One simple word, and that’s how it can all begin…
    Yes, I did enjoy it!

  12. S. A. Young

    As a daily train commuter I’ve often had similar thoughts about the people around me. There have been quite a few occasions where I feel like I may have missed a connection because I was too timid to be the first to speak. Loved this!

  13. That is an awesome story! Thanks for sharing. A simple hello is a great ice breaker. Howdy was the subject of my A-to-Z for H 🙂

  14. You really have a very lovely style of writing. It is such a pleasure to read. Thank you!

  15. A simple hello indeed! Thanks for the insight. Sometimes all it takes is a smile!
    I spent 3 of the happiest hours of my life one afternoon in Croatia. On a guided tour of that country in one of the oldest cities our tour guides were split up on side tours…….mine happened to have only me that wanted to see a particular site. She asked my what I would like to see first and my reply was, “How about you and I get a cup of coffee and discuss how we each feel about the world situations and our own lives? She accepted and thus started 3 hours of intriguing talk. What we found out was that we are so much alike that we might as well be talking about the same country and city. Ha! No real surprise there!

  16. I wonder if she had an intuition or something that the business lady wouldn’t turn up her nose at the “hello.”

  17. Thank you for following Imagine New Designs Gallery. Wonderful story! 🙂 My hello stories are more awkward. The few times I have said hello to strangers were cases of mistaken identity when I thought they were people I knew. I am glad that a few of them said hello back to me even if they did not know me.

    There were a few incidents in my life when strangers have said hello to me. However, they said hello because they wanted me to sign a petition or because they wanted to spend a few minutes to try to convert me to their religion. In those cases, I was happy to say good-bye. 🙂

  18. so simple yet something that we do not take time to do enough! Great story

  19. I absolutely love this. So simple and yet so true.

  20. Reblogged this on rossana del zio and commented:
    Simply beautiful!

  21. Hello! Isn’t that just amazing! If only we could get the leaders of countries to start off relationships with others using the same technique. Maybe we could pack them all on to a train =) haha

  22. Such simple hello is really needed in today’s fast moving world! Worth reading! Got a smile on my face! ☺

  23. My gregarious nature has always made me say hello to strangers on train and bus rides. I have met a lot of new people that way. A simple Hello always starts it off! 🙂

  24. What a lovely post! I have done my share of weekly commuting for almost 5 years and reading your post got me reminiscing some of the many interesting, wierd times on the train. I think I should write about it.

  25. that was a really good story.

  26. frailamber

    this is so amazing 🙂 it is truly great a simple hello can change many, ans thank you for the follow :))

  27. GREAT POST! A simple hello is really all it takes, thanks for pointing that out to everyone that wasn’t aware. 🙂 Loving your blog!

  28. Stunning story!
    Thanks for observing and then sharing with us! 🙂

  29. You did it again! I’m misty eyed lol. These stories are more than worthy of sharing. Thank you.

  30. Reblogged this on Words In The Wood and commented:
    Amazing how a few simple words can unite total strangers.

  31. Very nice! You do have the makings of a fine writer.

  32. Wow, we could all learn a lesson in how the engage those around us. I’m truly inspired! Thank you.

  33. This is so true, sometimes all we need is just a simple hello to open our doors to the a whole new world of friends and people. Thank you for reminding us of this wisdom. 🙂

  34. Love this!
    True story; I met one of my closest friends because of a simple hello on a train and now, years later I’m her daughters God mother.
    A simple hello can literally change your life…
    Wonderful story, amazing lesson!
    Thank you!

  35. rudyhou

    how true. we no longer being friendly to strangers. our way of being civilized is to remain quiet and avoid others’ gazes. we now have become a civilization of ‘minding our business’, thus loosing an opportunity to get to know others whom we could be good friends with. i often avoid saying ‘hello’ to strangers, fearing ugly stares directed back at me that say ‘weirdo’.

  36. Pingback: Free-For-All Friday #7 - Edwina's Episodes

  37. Chris

    My husband flies a lot for business, and he is always telling me stories about the passengers next to him. He is definately the “Hello” guy, which has spurred me to do the same. It makes a trip less boring, quicker, and you can make some pretty good friendships or business aquaintences!

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