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Greetings, Earthlings

"Hello! Is it me you're looking for?"—Lionel Richie

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!

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Alameda Resident September 28, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Good morning to you, Judy! When walking my dog I often find myself exchanging smiles with strangers. But I have noticed that it tends to be people who are older. Teenagers never meet my eyes.
AI September 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM
When I was walking down on Central Avenue last weekend, two teenage girls were passign by me, and one of them said to me "Move Bi--ch!" and went on. I could not say anything to them as I was in shock. It was horrible for yourng teenagers to be that way - no respect for others. Very unfortunate.
Li_ September 28, 2012 at 04:20 PM
:) If we all practice from now until the 4th of July, we'll be ready to yell "hooray," "let's hear it for the schools," "thank you for showing us your beautiful horse," and other reciprocal stuff to show our appreciation for the paraders and I can stop feeling like a "voice crying in the wilderness."
Nancy Johnsen Horton September 29, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Years ago, I was driving the parents of a friend over the Bay Bridge. They were visiting from a farming community in southern Illinois -- almost Kentucky. The traffic was bad, other drivers were honking. Each time he heard a horn honk, my friend's father instinctively threw his hand up in a wave. Soon he had the window open and was waving everywhere. From the back seat, my friend said "where he comes from, people only honk when they're saying hello."

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