ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 3, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

What's in a smile

By Godaya

I was on my way to office, which is located down Lorensz Road, and was coming in a bit early. So I got off Wellawatta Junction to get some DVDs, and was walking towards Lorensz Road, when I had a brainwave. I'm prone to having brain waves. Some are actually brilliant ideas which materialize beautifully, while others are just random wishes.

Getting back, I thought of doing a small experiment: I smiled at random people. Since this was a proper experiment, I had to keep track. So, I put my phone on SMS mode, and tapped a key depending on the result.

  • A was when they smiled back

  • D was when they didn't smile back

  • J was when they gave me looks

  • M was when they looked over their shoulder to see if I was smiling at someone else

  • T was everything else

The seemingly weird character association was because of the keyboard layout on mobile phones. Have a look at your keypad, and you'd understand what I'm talking about. The sample size at the end of it was 88. That means I smiled at 88 completely random people on the road on a busy after-poya Wednesday morning.

Results of the said experiment were quite interesting. Out of the 88 who were smiled at, 37 (42.05%) smiled back, 12 (13.64%) had blank stares, 20 (22.73%) gave me looks, 14 (15.91%) looked over their shoulders, and 5 (5.86%) did something else. The "something else" part is quite interesting, so I'll get back to that later.

Out of the 37 who smiled back, most were street vendors, tuk-tuk drivers, kids or older folks. And most of the time, it wasn't a fake smile or a smile created with some effort, but something that came from within. The kind of smile that lights up the whole face.

From the 12 who just had blank stares, most were girls. I think the reason for that might have been me, because from the 20 who gave me looks, most were girls too. Good looking ones at that. (Note to self: Don't smile at girls in the morning, it ruins their day.)

Looking over the shoulder was quite funny. Most would frantically try to locate some non-existent being to distance themselves from the creature who was smiling at them on the road. But interestingly, almost all of them smiled back at me when they either realized I was smiling at them, or when I nodded at them.

The cherry on the smiling cake however, was the people who did everything else. One person was so bewildered at having some random creature smile at him, he almost walked into a street sign. Then there was one guy who dived into his bag, an old lady looked at me and practically ran into a shop, and two others who were together started mumbling to each other.

I love doing this kind of thing. But it makes me realize a couple of things about our people: Most of us aren't used to a friendly smile, and that's not necessarily your fault. But some of us aren't used to smiling back at some random person either. And That is completely our fault. Remember the days when we used to wave to literally every single Tom, Dick and Sirisena during road trips? Why don't we do that anymore? So next time you see some wierdo smiling at you on the road, please smile back at me. I'm just being Godaya.

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