Every morning, come sun or snow, begins with a canine romp around the neighborhood. Still sleepy-eyed, and hoping to soon feel the influence of several cups of coffee; my fingers instinctively manage to fit the harness over ninety pounds of muscular hound dog. I snap the end of the leash on and we are flying out the front door!
This time of year the sun is already out and warming the mountain plain by the time we begin our daily walk. The glare can be pretty intense, so I habitually put on a baseball cap with a broad and long brim. Truth be told, it is not so much that I am trying to keep the sun out of my eyes; rather, I am thoroughly convinced that the neighborhood is not ready to witness the spectacle of my morning hair! Does invoking the name “Ace Ventura” paint any vivid images for you?
Both Xena and I go out of our way to greet people that we come across on our excursions. I ask the Plott Hound and Catahoula Leopard Dog mix to sit; since a muscular mass of slobbering dog can be a little intimidating for most. Once I have assured the other person that she is indeed friendly, I wait for acknowledgement. It is then that I give Xena permission to say hello. If another dog is involved, I will cautiously allow my eight year-old puppy the privilege of the “canine greeting ritual.” After some small talk with my fellow pedestrian, we are once again off to new adventures!
Many times I will encounter a stranger walking on the other side of the street. If it is one of those poor souls, trudging along with their head bowed and avoiding eye contact; I try to respect their privacy. In reality, I just want to holler out a warm greeting and startle them out of their trance; but then again, maybe they are in deep contemplation about the topic for their next blog post. Wait a minute, that’s me!
When I do come across that individual who looks over my way, I echo a friendly “Good Morning” in their direction. That is then followed by me reaching up to the bill of my hat, mimicking the action of tipping it forward. I am not sure when this peculiar action first surfaced, but it has become a regular ritual. The more mature walkers will usually smile and give me a nod in return. Amazingly enough, those who appear to be under the age of forty will stare back with a blank look on their face! I am sure they are silently wondering what I got all over the bill of my cap.
There was a time when all gentlemen wore hats. As they encountered one another in an outdoor setting, they would bring one hand up to the brim of their top hat. If it was a female that was being greeted, the hat was completely removed from the head. In more formal settings, gentlemen bowed and ladies curtsied. This social norm was not reserved for the upper class by any means. Laborers and craftsmen would bring their calloused hands up to well-worn and sweaty caps as well. It was not only what was expected, but also what was simply right!
I spent a little over a year living and working in rural Idaho as a healthcare executive. If you believe that our country is overpopulated, try spending sometime in southwest Idaho. There are stretches of road where you can drive for a half an hour without seeing another vehicle! It did not take long for me adopt one of the local customs along the roadways. Whenever an oncoming car approached, the driver would lift one hand up in greeting. It did not matter if the other motorist was in a suit or a denim shirt, the palm was always flashed outward in their windshield. I incorporated this gesture into my driving habits as well. I was awestruck that two complete strangers would share of themselves in this way.
We live in a different age now. Men rarely wear hats in social settings, barring the ridiculous display of wearing a baseball cap backwards. Nobody seems to bow or curtsey any more. The social custom of formally greeting one another has fallen by the wayside. I do not believe that this is so much the consequence of fashion evolution as it is a statement on who we have become as a society. We are all so self-absorbed in our own little worlds that we have lost sight of the universe of humanity that lies in front of us!
Are you open to the idea of greeting a perfect stranger? Are you willing to show heartfelt respect to all who come your way? Are you driven to connect with all who you encounter?
I heard that the local haberdashery is holding a big sale this weekend! I will meet you over by the fedoras!