I was always taught that when you cross someone on the street — you greet them. Growing up in a teeny tiny town (+-3000 inhabitants) in what is already considered an outregion…that’s just how things were. Basic deceny. Not greeting a person was actually actively corrected.
I lost the skill when I moved cities to attend college. The town I ended up in was full of brusque and slightly permanently grumpy folk who looked at you quizzically if you were to greet them out loud. An acknowledging headnod was plenty sufficient, but not even expected.
Since moving to a similarly tiny town as I grew up in in April – I’ve slowly been getting back into the habit of greeting. The town I now live in is very heavily Christian (#biblebelt is what they call the region) but somehow — greeting around here is also seen as an oddity. At least, when I do it. I see old folk walking, greeting and striking conversations at every corner when I go for a walk. Yet when I provide the same courtesy….I get a look of amazement. I suppose they’re not expecting it from my generation.
And today — takes the cake. I almost killed an elderly woman with my greeting. Maybe a tad exaggerated but still. I crossed the street for said lady seeing as she was toting one of those rollerbags, not walking all that supple and we were both sans-mask (so I honored the social distancing by crossing the street).
But I did that friendly awkwardsmile, took my hand from my pocket for a slight wave and said a friendly hello. Apparently this behavior was SO odd that she wanted to turn towards me to…I dunno what for…and subsequently tripped on a slightly raised tile and crashed to the floor.
I had already continued on my merry way so I didn’t see the specifics but the crashing sounds had me turn to see the old dame crumpled on the ground.
I quickly donned the just-in-case-mask in my coatpocket to rush to her aid, helped the lady up and made sure she was ok (outside of a scraped knee, she was). 30 minutes, a cup of supermarketcoffee and two chocolate croissants later I was on my way again. And where this may have felt like an unusually awkward inconvenience to me-a-year-ago….this small human interaction during these strange times made me thankful for my upbringing again.
Not the part where greeting someone makes them fall down in surprise but the part where I was instilled with enough decency and caring to be able to ignore my gutinstincts of ‘look away and pretend you saw nothing so you can be superintrovert‘ and create meaningful interactions with people in a world that grows ever colder and forcedly distant.
It’s nice to connect with someone outside of my Zoom calls list.