The Waving Phenomenon
I didn’t know it existed until I moved to North Carolina. What a strange and unusual phenomenon. Random people actually wave to one another, even if they don’t know them. At first, being the jaded New Yorker that I am, didn’t trust this weird occurrence, saying WTF. I don’t know them. Neighbors with whom I don’t know, wave when I walk by, wave if they are driving while I am on the side walk, wave when I am waiting at the bus stop with my son and wave to me when I am crossing the street. How odd. Did someone not fill me in on what is going on around here?
Little did I know that it was something called common courtesy – and I am hoping to spread the news about how nice it actually is. As I mentioned before, I am from New York, lived there my entire life until the stroke of 46 (shocking, I know! I like to think I am almost 25 x 2) and my life was suddenly turned upside down. Everything that I was conditioned to know and accept I now question. For example, being conditioned to not talk to strangers, not to make eye contact and most of all hurrying to be on my way because I rush to get somewhere else. It doesn’t matter my destination, I just need to get there and fast.
It all started when we would take walks around the neighborhood in the early evenings after dinner when the weather was mild. Neighbors we never had contact with just smiled and waved as we strolled past them. “Mom, do you know that guy?” my son would ask. “No, never saw him before” I replied. “Then why is he waving?” “You got me?” I said in disbelief. The conversation continued until I realized that they were being neighborly. Then the waves started happening as I got out of my car and someone in the parking lot waved to me, or at the supermarket as I checked out, or even at the gym. Really, I don’t know that many people around Raleigh yet and was bewildered at the concept of people just being nice. Don’t get me wrong, the friends and family I know and love in New York are all friendly, warm and generous people, I just don’t think it would occur to any of them, or me for that matter, to wave to a stranger for no reason.
My husband and I have had numerous conversations about this very strange occurrence, even bringing it up with another couple from the Northeast. It takes getting used to and frankly I don’t mind this little pleasantry except when I travel back to New York for a visit. I am afraid I will the odd ball out waving to some random person for no reason. This phenomenon does remind me of when I went boating. Growing up on Long Island it was almost a prerequisite to have a boat and my parents had sail boats for the large part of my adolescence and well into adulthood. When I was younger, and most recently with my son, we used to go out for day trips with my parents. We explained to him that when you see a boat passing, just wave. “Why” he would ask. “You just do – it’s nice” and accepted that explanation at face value, just like I did. I only thought it was limited to the open sea until I moved here.
Learning to wave to another is not instinctual and I find it a little awkward as I raise my arm for no reason but am trying to accept this change. I will try however, to make another person’s day just a little nicer. I just hope the recipient of my nice gesture thinks I am being nice and not deranged.