It was a hot day but the wind made it comfortable.
I always smile. I like smiling. I smile at strangers walking by and I smile at people I don’t really like. It works. When life throws me a colleague in a bad mood or a salesgirl who doesn’t think I’m worth her time, I smile and things often turn around. Even the days I myself don’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling from smiling, it seems to have some effect on the way the other person approaches me.
A creature of habit, I beamed the man one of my smiles. He sat a little closer than I would have liked and looked straight at my face. Against my better judgement in this instance, I smiled again.
He said, “Windy, isn’t it?”
“But you don’t have to worry about the wind…with that thing wrapped around your head”. He circled his right hand around his head.
This time I half smiled and looked out to the road.
“I saw a show about your people the other night.”
I was going to say, “ESL teachers?” but I thought the humour would be lost on him. In any case, I lacked interest in conversation with him.
A fake smile was all I could muster.
“Really awful – the things that people are doing around the world. I mean, those Muslims blowing up things and doing what not to their women. They believe some strange things.”
It works, I reminded myself. Smiling works, so keep smiling at the man.
I smiled a patient smile and dragged myself into a conversation for which I didn’t have the remotest enthusiasm.
What happened to talking about the weather?
A few weeks before speaking to that old man about acts of brutality committed by Buddhist monks in Myanmar (apparently, he had never heard of it) and discussing the contents of various Scriptures, I had made room for a middle- aged redhead and her bags at another bus stop. Of course, I smiled the whole time and she proceeded to tell me how beautiful I looked, especially because of my bright orange scarf.
“You wear that because of your religion, don’t you?”
Watch this confronting video on tackling islamophobia in Australia. (Post continues after video.)
Perhaps the next smile was too inviting.
I then got told quite sternly how I looked just fine but “we Australian people don’t like those ones with their faces covered and it’s scary and you should go and tell your community that it’s not on!”