Because we walkers are all going in the same direction, we usually encounter each other in passing, literally. We are passing or being passed or keeping equal distance.
On occasion, in the quiet, I am greeted by a passing walker’s faceless “g’d m’r’ng” and that’s that.
If I hear the footfall behind me, I anticipate a fleeting greeting but it doesn’t always come. If the walker is light-footed, the words can be surprising, even startling.
In any case, we forge on.
Recently, however, I decided to experiment by walking clockwise around the track, which has eight lanes.
What a difference. I could see my fellow walkers approaching as they could see me. There was time to prepare for greetings, unfailingly shared, particularly if we were in nearby lanes. Coming from different directions, we smiled. Sometimes it was perfunctory, sometimes sincere.
We knew we’d meet each other again in a lap’s time. On those re-encounters we could even share mock grimaces of exhaustion. If we wanted solitude, we could move apart in the lanes we chose.
The other day, one woman signaled that she was about to stop and we struck up a brief conversation that turned on our exercise routines. How often, how far, how long. The basics. There was a chance we might meet again, particularly—but only if — she was walking counter to my clockwise.
If we had been going in the same direction — in agreement as it were — we would never have "countered," or encountered.