Posted by: DD | May 12, 2008

no. 656 – The Good Old Days

Do you know what the one-finger wave is? If you grew up in a rural area, you probably do, it’s just that in modern times it not only has taken on a new meaning, but has been updated to a different finger.

When I was a kid, on any given day when we were out for a drive, almost every car we met on the highway acknowledged our presence with a simple lift of the index finger from the steering wheel, and always it was returned by my Mom (or Dad depending on the who was the driver). It must have made both of them nuts when we would ask each time, "Who was that?" It was rare that they ever knew. It was considered common road courtesy of the times.

I also remember the warning flash of headlights an oncoming car would give us to indicate a patrol car was up ahead. It always meant to slow down (especially appreciated if you were hauling ass with your six other friends to a neighboring town for a football game in your prized "land yacht").

And if there ever was a car pulled over on the side of a road with their flashers on, minus the patrol car, there would always be a handful of other cars stopped to offer assistance. Even I have had the privilege of watching a couple of gentleman change my tire while I stood out of their way, chatting with the wives, twenty years ago.

Our overall recognition of each other as fellow human beings isn’t just limited to the bubbled lives of our cars, either. This weekend as XBoy raced ahead of us to the church entry, I watched as a woman entered the doors and even though she saw my son just reaching for the door, she let it go. If I hadn’t lunged for the heavy door, his fingers would have been smashed.

We avert our eyes walking in the mall, or down the streets, so we don’t have to smile or say good morning to strangers.

When did our society become so . . .  anti-social?

I’m just as guilty as the next person, too, if not more so. I’m reminded of that when I’m pleasantly caught off-guard when a teen-ager holds the door for me instead of peeling off with his/her friends. We try to raise our kids to be polite and remember their manners, but it would seem that it’s the adults, who after so many thankless deeds and feeling invisible, that forget how effective an acknowledgment of being, is. When did "please", "thank you", and especially "you’re welcome" and "hello" get to be archaic?

Maybe we can practice waving with one finger (the first one); make eye-contact and smile at a stranger; or add "please" to our coffee order at the drive through.

If it feels awkward, it means we aren’t doing it enough.

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Responses

  1. I don’t know how many times people have looked at me rudely because I smiled at them, said hello or wished them to have a nice day.

    I grew up in a small town too and am all too familiar with the one finger wave. I try to wave at everyone I know when I pass them. But with living in a bigger town, that’s not always so easy. I certainly make sure to do it with the neighbors that I know.

    I think it would behoove us all to add a little more sincerity and interaction into our lives.

  2. I 100% agree.

    I’m guilty of it as well. K has actually taught me a good lesson here. Wave to everybody. Eventually you will get a wave back.

  3. People wave a little more in the South but the rest of it has definitely disappeared. I miss it but am also guilty. I actually try to avoid eye contact so that I can be left alone. I have no idea when it became such a burden to be nice to strangers (probably around the time I became a social worker and spent my whole day listening to the stories of strangers and felt like there wasn’t much left at the end of the day).

    I do still flash my lights when there is a cop but I swear no one knows what I am doing now. I also flash my lights to alert truckers they are clear to merge – also don’t always seem to know why I am flashing at them.

  4. Maybe it’s because I’m in the suburbs or maybe it’s just Canada but we are pretty friendly – I’m always exchanging greetings with strangers when I’m out walking my daughter. And everyone on our street waves at each other (with car or without).
    The last time I was in Portland though I remember our first dinner out and each time my husband or I thanked the waitress we earned a dubious “u-hu” in response. We actually ended up being embarassed about thanking her.
    Anyway, thanks for listening/reading, pleased to know you and I’m currently doing a little wave at you (more of the queen type wave as I’m an elegant sort).
    DinoD

  5. Hi DD, I think it might be a generational thing.

    When I was younger (in college perhaps) I used to get up early with my Dad to walk the boardwalk (I grew up on Long Island). I noted that he would always say good morning to the walkers and joggers we would come across, and thinking it was friendly and pleasant I did the same. The older people we came across would smile and return the greeting, but younger people (30’s, sometimes 40’s) would ignore us. I think it might be the whole “don’t talk to strangers” thing. I also think it’s regional. I lived in a Big Southern City, and found the people very friendly, and it was common for passing people on the street to say “hello” or “good morning”.

    My DH and I moved to a small town in the northeast, and we have found people here to be very friendly. We’re blessed with lovely neighbors (most of them), and the people who let a door close in your face seem to be in the minority.

    We are teaching our 2-year-old to say please and thank you, to say your welcome, and it’s slow going because he’s 2. However, he does get to see DH and I be considerate of each other every day, so I know this will help good manners to sink in. If we want the world to be more pleasant and considerate it starts with ourselves. It’s sad that others are perhaps too busy to take the time, but we have to do what we can, and that means starting with ourselves.

    Have a wonderful day!

  6. Amen Sister!

    A man held the door for me yesterday (well, he was holding the door open and talking to himself…not sure it was for me) and I thanked him and he ignored me. It confused me.

    I hate holding the door for someone and them not even acknowledging it.

  7. Ah yes, the one-fingered wave. Featured in the book and video “How to Talk Minnesotan” as well.

  8. Great timing DD! I just had the woman at the Swiss Farms (a drive-though-dairy…BRILLIANT!) commend me on my manners.

    I must have looked confused, because she explained, “You said, May I please have a gallon of 2% etc. It irks me when people pull up and say, Yeah, can I get, or lemme have, It’s refreshing to hear a please and thank you every now and then.”

    For some odd reason, I’ve been quite outgoing lately. I’ve spoken to strangers at church, held the door open for people at the store and such.

  9. Ya know what else I miss? Just dropping by for a visit…either you pop over to someone’s house or they pop over to yours. It was always so fun and no one cared if the house was perfect. People used to enjoy spending times with friends at home. I miss that.

  10. I am so well-mannered that I am easily driven mad by those with bad manners. Seriously, I fume over their lack of manners for hours. I might even go back to it a week later!

    Randomly, does Molly do anything but Twitter and comment on blogs? Bitch needs to get some motherfucking work done, is what.

  11. That’s really interesting, because I thought the lack of roadside and other manners was a California thing. I don’t have anything against Californians, I’m a Californian. But I do notice that it’s rare that people will acknowledge other people or show some simple courtesies. Kind of makes me sad to know that it’s more widespread.

  12. I totally agree. People are in the own little world. It’s very sad.

    When I was a student at the College of St. Benedict, we always greeted anyone who passed us and holding doors for people got kind of ridiculous. We’d actually wait a minute or two if the person was too far away just so we could hold the door. It’s been over 10 years, but I stopped by campus the other day to purchase a sweatshirt. I needed to check the map to see if the bookstore was in the same building. Before I could get within 10 feet of the map, I had 2 students approach me asking if I needed help. It was refreshing to know that at least one place still recognized the importance of being polite and helping one another.

    I think the flashing headlights to warn of a police car ahead went away with that whole urban legend thing. Didn’t the legend say that gang members would drive around without their headlights on so that someone would flash theirs and then the gang would go after them? Or something dumb like that.

  13. It’s still pretty nice out here. People are friendly (strange for a Yank, right?) and polite.

    But, in Oak Park, where we used to live, there was one, ONE person who was ever nice to me. She worked behind the counter at the CVS. That was it.

  14. I grew up in an area with the waves, the police warnings, and just general coziness. Myself? Notsomuch. It seems like each time I make an effort people are rude, so I just stopped. Mature of me, no?

  15. Yes, I live in the sticks and I got flashed (by headlights!) this morning on my way to work. I was delighted because I was of course speeding. I slowed down, and I was SO happy when I saw the cop waiting there with the radar gun pointed right at me.
    I teach 5th graders (10 years old) and you wouldn’t believe how many of them let the door slam in their CLASSMATES’ faces! I have explained many times to them to hold the door for the person behind them…some of it must come from their parents, right?!
    kp

  16. Great post DD. It must be my age but I too am horrified by the general lack of manners. I grew up in a small town too and when I go home (it’s still home after 21 years away), people still say hello to each other on the street. It was hilarious when my Dad came to California and he would go out walking in my neighbourhood with the dog and say hello to everyone he passed. He got some strange looks but at the end of 3 weeks, even our most cantakerous neighbours were waving at him. I say hello to people when I pass them on the street and wave at everyone who lives around here- even thought some of them have never waved back in 12 years.It makes me feel good. I’ll try and bring back the one fingered salute- I’ll let you know how it goes.

  17. Wonderful commentary! I know that I’m guilty of this sometimes, too…usually it’s the eyes averted to the ground when I’m in a hurry or just not feeling in a mood to be social. But I also know how much better I feel when someone acknowledges me with a smile or a good morning.

    As for manners…I’m ardently teaching my little girl ’bout please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me, etc. She may be 2, but there’s no time like the present to learn such skills.

    I will do my best to work on smiling at strangers today. 🙂


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