My cousin Eddie and I went to Yosemite Valley. One day we were walking up the trail that goes to the top of Yosemite Falls and Eddie said something very funny.
Yosemite Falls is the tallest in North America. It has an upper and a lower. Here’s a picture of the back of Eddie’s head as it looks at the bottom of Upper Yosemite Falls. We had already gone up a long way to get here.
The first part of the trail is very steep, with many short switchbacks and lots of rocks. I was walking in front for a long stretch. Now and then we’d encounter others on the trail, going down. After a while, Eddie spoke up to tell me that he had noticed that I looked at the people in the face as they went by, ready to say howdy if they were the howdy types. Sometimes they were, sometimes they weren’t.
Next Eddie shared with me the observations he’d made about the difference between the people in Warren Ohio, and the people in Minnesota where Eddie had recently visited. Ed’s conclusion was that the Minnesotans tend to say hi to strangers, whereas the Warrenians (Warreners? Warrenites? Warrentia?) are more likely to gaze intently at the ground while passing. Both cultures have now passed a tipping point where it feels equally odd, on average, to not say hi in Minnesota as it does to say hi in Ohio.
I pointed out that if he wanted a case in point, he could point to my case. I was a ground gazer when I lived in Ohio, and now, after much walking around in the California walking places, I’ve been helloed at so many time that I transformed into a hello-sayer. I can even initiate. Which I decided to start doing, for Ed’s amusement.
The next couple that came by did not look up as I looked right at them and said “Hi!” But I did startle them into a belated grunt of acknowledgment and a slight stumble.
I turned around to Eddie and said, “I think they were from Ohio.”
We got to the top of the steep ascension and the switchbacks stopped. The trail was now a slowly curving, nearly level piece of cake. Up to now we had been in a heavily wooded area. Suddenly we were clear of the trees, and we were getting our first huge views of the whole valley, from 1200 feet up, cliffside. We stopped in silent reverence for a while, and moved on.
We could see a couple approaching from 30 yards away. We could hear them too, gloppitting along. It was a combination of moaning, groaning, and the messy, clackety sound of poorly packed supplies and uncomfortable clothes.
By the time they were next to me, I was giggling inside, ungraciously. I could feel Eddie behind me doing the same thing.
“Good morning!” I chirped.
Nothing. They didn’t look up. Their sounds remained the same. Right on down the trail they went.
A moment passed, and Eddie said, “I think they were from Michigan.”