Alameda, why don't we say hello to each other? I never say hello. And you don't either. Well, not to me anyway. We don't smile, we don't look each other in the eyes as we pass and we certainly don't engage in actual conversation.
When a stranger strikes up a conversation with me, I assume they are going to try to sell me something. Or ask me if I want to join their church. Or they're drunk. All have happened but I have to admit, usually they're quite sober and just being friendly.
When I was young I remember being much friendlier. If a fire truck or police car happened to pass by, my sister and I would go nuts! Smiling, waving our arms high so they would see us. But now? Eh, not so much.
I don't remember when I got out of the habit of being neighborly to people who aren't necessarily my neighbors, but I do remember a shocking instance of human kindness when we first moved to Birmingham, Alabama, about 14 years ago.
My husband had just picked me up from the airport to show me our first house. When we were touring the neighborhood, a man driving toward us rolled down his window, stuck out his arm and waved as he passed our car. My husband, being a good Oregon boy, waved back. I was confused. I asked who the man was and my husband said he didn't know. I cocked my head. Then why did the man waved at us? My husband said that he was just being friendly.
"Friendly?" I said, inquisitively.
"Friendly." He said.
See, what'd I tell you. Shocking!
This memory was brought front and center last week when my girls and I drove by that house in Birmingham. A few days prior, we were hiking in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, checking out Grotto and Rainbow Falls. It was a nice day and lots of people were on the trails. I noticed that on the way up, if I caught someone's eye and smiled, not only did they not say hello, they didn't even meet my gaze. They'd look away, or down, or anywhere other than at me.
On our way back down, my two kids and I decided to say "hi" or "hello" to everyone we passed. Most people happily greeted us in return, but some still pretended we didn't exist. Odd, but expected.
So here is my challenge to you Alameda — be shocking. Say "hello" to one another. Or even "hi." Smile, wave or do a little head nod, whatever floats your boat. But acknowledge that there is a living, breathing person next to you. It doesn't hurt and it makes people feel good.
If they don't acknowledge you back? Simply assume that they are uncivilized heathens lacking culture and basic moral principles. Well, that's what I'm going to do, anyway. So good morning, Alameda. Hello!