Or do. Your call.
I am socially awkward and used to panic a little when passing strangers on a trail. I have said some embarrassing things to innocent folks. On one occasion, I complimented an elderly gentleman on his rustic hickory walking stick by exclaiming, “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 more stellar moments.
After watching more successful trail interactions between others, I have come up with a handful of scripted but sincere greetings for the different outdoor types. The following are some of my mini-scripts:
To another female biker: “Wow, cool ______.” (Insert socks, shorts, helmet, or any other eye-catching item.) I assume others have an inner raven and are proud of the shiny, colorful objects they have collected and bedazzled themselves with; I know I am. Last season, the acquisition of an outrageously patterned pair of Shredly shorts elicited so many trail comments that I bought a second pair.
To a male biker: “Nice bike!” I try to refrain from asking how it rides because that is getting dangerously close to awkward. Last spring, I made my husband cringe when I told a man admiring my bike that some women my age get breast implants, but I got full suspension.
To a horseback rider: “How do you want me to stand, above or below you on the trail?” A friend and I once asked a grizzled old cowboy how he wanted us to stand with our bikes so we wouldn’t scare his horse. The cowboy answered, “Darlin’, 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 passed us by.
To a motorcyclist who has stopped: “How far have you gone today and where are you headed?” To ask how many strokes a motorbike has and if it feels like a rocket to ride is also bordering on suggestive; I learned this after an agonizing silence and then polite throat-clearing by a motorbiker before he moved on.
To the speedy downhill mountain biker: “Are you glad to see me or did you just get your suspension adjusted?” Okay, okay… I don’t say this but someday maybe I will and I will laugh myself silly, much to the chagrin of my poor suffering husband.