A letter concerning passersby

By John Mark Lampley


Dear Reader,

I should hope the exchange is complete; from the passing hello to the passing scowl. An unfriendly grimace, I am convinced, is the only practical option. Often before, the unsuspecting passerby may have been caught off guard by an inappropriately snoopy question or a lifeless exclamation. Examples, respectively: ‘How are you?” or “My what lovely weather!” I laud those of you who have taken matters into your own hands.

The practice is contemptible. These people have no right to butt in to our lives, to prod us with their good cheer or to force it down our throats. It even occasionally smells bad for them to lean in so close.

I am greatly satisfied that some of the more prudent of you readers have taken the first steps in eliminating these processes outright. You acknowledge full well the discomfort of bringing new people into your lives, the futility of exerting social effort day to day, hour to hour. When you gaze emptily down to the ground or to your phone I burn with delight. I am positively aflame when you extend the empty glance to the perpetrator directly. I advise you, when one of those buffoons tips his hat to you, let him know, then and there, (so as to avoid confusion), how rude he is being to single you out. Scowl, by George, scowl at the fool. Let him feel the weight of his own stupidity. I have myself spat on these people before, but I tell you it does no good; it merely makes them friendlier. No, the proper response is not open contempt, but indifference.

I tell you, my dear reader, you must nip these troubles in the bud. If you let them get away with it they’ll spread their mess like an overturned glass of milk. It will seep into the carpet and curdle.

I for one do not relish the stench of friendliness: it is a disagreeable quality in a person and renders them perfectly detestable. Luckily, it can be cured. These people are only like this out of ignorance—you could knit a scarf from their sheepish naivety—and though I can’t say you shouldn’t hold it against them, by all means be generous. Tell them the truth: edify them. Give them a glare, a scowl, anything in fact to teach them not to be so infernally rude.

Don’t give up now; you’ve done excellently thus far. People have to be reminded that the passing hello was ever a ‘tradition’. And if they do refer to it as such, be quick to shut them up. If we are really to save Sewanee we need to do more than just dumbly flap our open palms at each other and blubber a ‘hello’. Rather, we had ought to retract as far into ourselves as possible until we are certain that no one will weasel their way inside, unless, of course, we want them to.

Yours affectionately, Erebus