If you are looking for a silver lining in this COVID-19 situation, maybe this will be it. People are saying hello. Out loud. To each other.
It's likely that we've seen the end of the traditional handshake and that's okay with me. I've always been partial to the bow anyway. But this post is less about the emerging gestures that go with our 'hellos' and more about the fact that more people have said hi to me in the last three weeks than the last three years. That's a refreshingly silver lining.
I was born and raised in New Jersey where most people are frugal with their 'hellos'. We pass them around to family accompanied by big hugs and kisses. We send greetings to friends with warm waves and we smile and nod to our neighbors as we pass each other in the driveway. Other than that, we New Jerseyians (or --ites?) reserve other special gestures and 'greetings' for people who cut us off on the parkway. We pretty much ignore everyone else ;)
These were the kinds of greetings that I was used to. You can imagine my surprise when, about ten years ago, I moved to North Carolina and I was being greeted--with a smile, no less--by perfect strangers. Saying hello to anyone and everyone is the southern way. At first, I returned the happy greetings with a 'you talkin' to me' stare. I just didn't get it. Eventually, I grew accustomed to all of the 'hellos' and 'good mornings' and began to return them in an equally friendly way. I might add that I've lived in several regions on the east coast and I've never made friends more easily than when I lived in North Carolina.
Four years ago, I moved to South Florida and, having grown accustomed to being greeted on the street, was expecting that to continue. I was in still in the south, after all. But, to my disappointment, Floridians in this area keep to themselves. I learned that very quickly. It's more like New Jersey down here and that's to be expected--this area is home to a lot of transplants from the Northeast. There are few 'hellos' to and from random strangers. I walk around my neighborhood, just as bad as the rest, with my head down and a stockpile of 'hellos'.
Until about three weeks ago. After being quarantined for a few days, going for a walk around the neighborhood was like walking the red carpet at a movie premier. People of all ages, started waving and saying hello to me. I got no less than four hellos on one walk the other day. Two young children yelled 'hello' from their stroller as their mom smiled and waved at me. They looked at me, waiting for my return greeting. They expected it. We had all been (and still are) alone for so long that ignoring each other was out of the question. It was nice to simply acknowledge that we are neither on this planet alone nor in this mess alone.
I continue to walk everyday on this quarantine and I say hello to everyone I pass. Yes, I am an alligator's length (at least) away from them but I'm happy that they're there, walking and healthy and with their return greeting, I know that they're happy to see me, too.
Stay safe out there and say 'hello'!