Elsie asked me to relay this slightly tragic tale.
Each day we cross over a toll bridge on the way to Betty’s pre-school. A man takes your money and gives you a ticket and then the barrier swings up. Pretty regular really. For some time Betty had been grilling me on why the man said a cheery ‘Good morning’ to me and my reply was a mumbled ‘Morning’. I told her it was because I was half asleep and didn’t really like the phrase ‘Good morning’ or some other such nonsense.
After several days of this exact same conversation I decided to throw it back at Betty. I wound down Betty’s window on the approach to the bridge and told Betty to say ‘Good morning’ to the man. This she did, incredibly loudly, and the man was quite startled, but also quite pleased I think.
This carried on for a few mornings until, pleased with the way I had shifted the onus of the greeting onto Betty, I decided to go a step further and got Betty to give the toll bridge man the money for the ticket. Betty was happy to do this and I told Elsie about the whole situation and for a while everyone was happy. After a while the man asked Betty her name and soon an entire conversation was taking place. Probably the pinnacle of this was as follows:
I would wind down Betty’s window and the man would say ‘Good morning Betty’, and Betty would say ‘Good morning’ and the man would say ‘How are you this morning?’ and Betty would say ‘Fine thank you’ and meanwhile the money-ticket exchange took place.
Then disaster struck. To this day I don’t know what caused it. First of all Betty decided the money was too cold and insisted I took back the responsibility of paying for the ticket. I did so, but, for a while at least, Betty and the man exchanged pleasantries. Then Betty announced that she ‘didn’t want to say hello to the man all the time’. She said she was happy to greet him on Saturdays, knowing full well that she doesn’t go to pre-school on Saturdays. I tried winding the window down anyway, thinking Betty would soften when the man greeted her. However there was a very awkward moment when the man said ‘Good morning Betty’ and Betty just stared straight ahead. After that I didn’t bother winding down Betty’s window.
For a few days, the man glanced at Betty’s window, perhaps thinking of the good times, but when she continued to stare blankly ahead he finally threw in the towel. Now they completely ignore each other and it’s very embarrassing. I have considered trying to explain to the man that Betty isn’t normally so aloof, but it feels like any excuse would just sound hollow, so I have just pretended that nothing ever happened. I have made an effort to say ‘Good morning’ myself in a slightly more cheery way. Possibly this is what Betty had intended all along, and the man was just collateral damage.