I am socially awkward. With that being said I use to panic a little when passing strangers on a trail. I have said some pretty freaking embarrassing things to innocent strangers. On one occasion I thought I would compliment an elderly gentleman on his rustic hickory walking stick by exclaiming “Wow, you have a really amazing stick!” I was reprimanded for being “cheeky and thinking I was clever and ironic”, it was not one of my stellar moments.
Over the years, after watching successful trail interactions between others, I have come up with a handful of scripted but sincere greetings for the different outdoor types I carefully profile and stereotype. 😉 The following are some of my mini-scripts, I almost always remember to follow these up with the number of people that are behind me, you know safety is always polite.
-To another girl biker: “Wow, cool______ .”(insert socks, shorts, helmet or any other eye catching item) I assume that every girl has an inner raven and is proud of the shiny, colorful objects they have collected and bedazzled themselves with, I am.
-To a dude biker: “Nice bike!” I try to refrain from asking how much travel they have and how it rides because that is getting dangerously close to awkward. This last weekend I made my husband cringe when I told a man admiring my bike that some women my age get boob jobs but I got a Ripley. I am pretty sure the guy wanted to tell me to get back in my lane and roll up the windows. I thought it was funny.
-To a hiker with a dog: “Oh my gosh, your dog is so adorable, what kind is it?”
-To a hiker with a walking stick: “My goodness it is beautiful today, have a good hike.” It is essential to ignore the walking stick.
-To a horse person: “How do you want me to stand, with the bike up or down?” As they pass I keep chatting to the rider and say silly things like “Wow, your horse is really beautiful, it must be a pleasure to ride.” (I don’t know a good looking horse from a mule but we all know the term horse lover…) I do have a side story for this, my friend Julie Hodge and I once asked a grizzled old cowboy how he wanted us to stand with our bikes so we wouldn’t scare his horse when he passed. The cowboy answered “Darl’n if your bike scares my horse I would shoot it, the horse not the bike.” We prayed for the horse to be steady as it went by us.
-To a motorcyclist who has stopped: “How far have you gone today, where are you headed?” To ask how many strokes a motorbike has and if it feels like a rocket is also bordering on suggestive, I learned this after an agonizing silence followed by a polite throat clearing by the biker before he moved on. I also received some extra ribbing from my girlfriends for the rest of the ride as an extra dose of negative reinforcement to my questionable behavior.
-To the speedy downhill biker: “Whoa, are you glad to see me or did you just get your suspension adjusted?” OK, OK I don’t say this but some day maybe I will and I will laugh myself silly.