Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Doing the Wave

I grew up in the small town of Arimo, Idaho, population about 300 people. All of the people in the town could fit into a single movie theater, and not just the big screen at the megaplex where they show the new releases, but one of the outer screens where they show the movies that have been out for five weeks.

The business district of Arimo
It's been about 30 years since I lived in Arimo. (Dang, I'm getting old!) I went back there this weekend and I realized that I don't know hardly anyone who lives there anymore, and they don't know me. But that didn't stop them from waving at me.

One of the things about living in a town as small as Arimo is that everyone knows everyone. And because everyone knows everyone, whenever any car drives by, you wave at the driver because the chances are you know who it is. And if you don't know the driver? No big deal, it's just a wave.

In the two days I spent this weekend in and around Arimo I got waved at more often than the entire seven years I've lived in my current "city." (The "city" I live in has a population of less than 10,000, but that still makes it 30 times bigger than Arimo.) I didn't know most of the people who waved at me, and they didn't know me, either. But that didn't matter. When you live in Arimo, you wave at everyone.

In the small town way of thinking, waving at someone you don't know is much more acceptable than not waving at someone you do know. Because of this, you wave at absolutely everyone. (For those of you who are old enough, think of the closing credits to The Beverly Hillbillies, where Granny, Uncle Jed, Jethro, and Ellie Mae stand there and wave at the audience for the entire song.)

When I was a kid there was an old guy who lived all the way across town (about three blocks away) who owned some property near us, so he frequently drove by our house. Every time he drove by our house he would wave at us. But he would never look at us when he waved, he would always be looking straight forward as he drove. We couldn't decide if he had the greatest peripheral vision in the world, or if he just raised his hand and waved every ten seconds, regardless if anyone was there or not, because he didn't want to miss waving at someone.

You can't really do this in the city. If you tried to wave at everyone who went by or everyone you saw, you'd get a sore arm. And, you'd get a lot of strange looks from people. A lot of strange and confused looks.

While there this weekend, I took the kids for a drive out to see some of the farmland my Dad and Grandpa used to farm. (Who am I kidding? I took me for a drive to see the old farmland. The kids weren't very interested, and were just along for the ride.) As I drove, I went past a house where a guy was on a riding lawnmower taking down some of the weeds around his mailbox. As I approached, he waved at me. I waved back and drove on by. But somewhere in the back reaches of my mind I thought, "Hey, was that Jim?"

Jim was one of my best friends growing up. I hadn't seen him or talked to him in several years. About a mile down the road I drove past the house where Jim grew up. And then I thought, if that was Jim, I need to go back and say "Hi." So, I turned the car around. When I got back to where he was, sure enough, it was Jim! We talked for a few minutes, and I was glad that I turned around and went back.

He said he saw me coming and waved because he thought I was one of his neighbors. If he hadn't waved, I probably wouldn't have even thought about stopping. I was glad he waved.

I think I'm going to try to adapt the Arimo attitude. I think I'll try to wave at more people. I'm sure I'll get a lot of strange, confused looks. But, who knows, maybe I'll actually start to get to know some people, and they'll actually wave back!

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