We called him “the little waving dude”: an elderly gentleman, bent and slow, who waved at every car as he and his companion shuffled along their morning walk. It was no modest hand gesture, either. It was a full arm-and-shoulder performance — a real physical commitment.
I live in one of those sterile suburbs you read about; I might recognize 1.5 of my neighbors if I saw them in a store. There’s no front-yard or street life here. So the little waving dude’s big wave stood out. And quickly brightened our mornings. My wife and I looked forward to seeing him as we left for work, and I quickly adjusted my return wave; my usual laconic finger-raise from the steering wheel seemed inadequate. I had to roll down my window to get more arm into it. It surprised me how effectively one simple, friendly motion dispelled much of the Nextdoor.com paranoia about strangers on our streets. We even thought about giving him a thank-you card.
Because of quarantine and work-from-home, I lost track of him for a long while; I assumed the worst. But I’m happy to report that he’s still out there, slower and more tentative now, but still waving — once again jazzing up each day that I see him.
As it happens, there’s another old guy in the nabe who walks his little dog every day and seems determined neither to smile nor return a wave. My wife, who believes in paying good things forward, is undeterred. “I’m going to get him to wave back,” she told me. And then, the other day, he did. A microscopic hand gesture. It’s a start.