The Good Morning Experiment

Every morning I walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, a beautiful 9.7-mile trail that runs from the middle of San Jose to Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos. And every morning I happily and cheerfully say “Good Morning” to every person I encounter. It’s just something I’ve always done, my way of spreading joy and positivity. This morning, I decided to do a little experiment. I wanted to count how many people actually said good morning back to me. The answer? 11 out of 15. And what have I taken away from the painstakingly extensive, labor-intensive, award-winning study? Hell, I don’t know. But I will tell you this; I’m not so surprised by the numbers.

This trail would be a great place for a human behavior expert to hang out for a few days to collect data. It really is fascinating. There are walkers, joggers, bikers, and the occasional rollerblader. As for the walkers, some keep their heads down or to the side as they walk, to avoid all possible human social interaction. Others appear to not even understand what I am saying. Many athletes have their iPods so loud that you could sing along to that Maroon 5 song with them.  Some women look at me as if I am trying to hit on them. Not! Others are so caught up in their gossip and talking crap about a co-worker or family member that they simply don’t hear me (even though I project very well and usually throw in a hand wave). I try not to be judgmental. Who knows what they have going on in their lives, right? And if they don’t want to say good morning, they really don’t have to! It’s their right. It’s their choice.

I do think it’s such a waste of an amazing walk in nature, though, when you don’t even notice the trees, the creek, the flowers, the smell, the wildlife, and the people, all around you.  This is life. I’m guessing most of the people didn’t even notice this amazing grasshopper on the fence as they walked by it. Or if they did notice it, they probably didn’t even take the time to admire it, thank the universe for it, or say good morning to it…like someone I know.

What about you? Do you say good morning or hello to people you encounter on a walk or in the cheese section at Whole Foods? Do you flash a smile their way? Or do you try to avoid eye contact and just move on your way? Just curious…


  1. Thanks Rich, just noticed the beautiful grasshoper!

  2. Great! But how observant are you really? Did you notice the bird turd next to the grasshopper? Okay. Right. Better to focus on the prettier things. I get it.

  3. Anne Rosales says:

    Great post! Having grown up in the South, where one is “trained” to speak to everyone, it’s amazing to me how we in California can live so close together and yet so far apart. Not to mention how we substitute electronics for the real life all around us.

    Thanks for the wake up call!

    • Funny you mention the South Anne. I did notice that while I was there. Even when I visited my buddy over on the East Coast in Virginia, I was surprised as to how many people were saying hello to me in the grocery store. It was a pleasant surprise. :)

  4. I find that in the smaller towns, people nearly always return your greeting. In the big cities, they often look at you as if you’ve just invaded their personal space by saying hullo. I live in a popular tourist beachside area, and people are generally pretty friendly and will often initiate a greeting. Must be the laid-back holiday atmosphere,

    • Rich Amooi says:

      That’s true Robin, I’ve noticed that in smaller towns. And people also greet you differently in other countries. I love the double-peck-on-the-cheeks greeting in Spain. :)

  5. Loved this post. I do the same thing, although my greeting is often ‘Good evening’ because I take a bike ride in the morning. My environment is suburbia, though, rather than a California trail. Responses vary and I’ve given up with the teenagers! Older people sometimes greet me first.

    I tend to do a similar route on my bike, so last week I decided to notice one new thing every time. It’s amazing and kind of horrifying what I don’t observe. Another nice and easier thing I did was to consciously see every tree I passed.

    Re the double-pecks-on-the-cheeks, my Dutch friends to a one, two three.

    • Rich Amooi says:

      Wow, the Dutch do a one-two-three kiss? How cool! I had no idea. Just for that, I’m going to bump them up a few levels on my “most-admired” list. :)

      It’s funny, but “Good Evening” is not used much here in the United States. I think it seems very formal for a lot of people. Either that, or “Hi” is just a lot easier to get out of your mouth.

      That’s a great idea, trying to notice something new when you walk the same path. I’m going to try that this morning. Thanks for inspiring me!

  6. Some of the best days are spent in the park just watching people – but you should speak – otherwise you’re just being creepy

  7. I thought I commented here already…. hmmm. It was something about how I make a point to always greet people back because you never know when your slight might be the last straw for someone and they could end up going all crazy on you and, well, you could possible end up dead.
    But seriously, I live in the south and (as someone already mentioned) it is a neighborly place. Strangers in cars even wave at you. Again, I wave back because, well, you just never know, do you? They also carry guns in cars in the south.

    • Rich Amooi says:

      Actually, you did comment before, but I’m not sure why it is not showing up. Sorry, I need to troubleshoot that. As for the gun thing, I agree with you. Better safe than sorry!

  8. This is funny — I’m chiming in as a Southerner, too. I am so accustomed to how friendly everyone is here and then when I go visit other places everyone seems so NOT. When my husband first moved here from California he called me on the cell while he was out driving and said, “People kept waving at me and I pulled over to make sure something wasn’t wrong with the car and then I realized they were just being friendly.”

    • Rich Amooi says:

      :) That’s pretty funny about your husband. But I love that. For some reason, as I was reading your comment, lyrics of a particular song popped into my head, “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around. Love is in the air, every sight and every sound.” Now if only we could sing that song in every city and every nation! Maybe one day we can. Let’s get to work people! Spread the love!

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