Wednesday, 16 May 2012

People You Don't Know

Nothing to do with this post but I kind of love Norman Rockwell's illustrations 
Today, will be a bit of a "nothing" day.
I am working tonight. Chris is away in London having some "well dressed me time" with a friend
and the water for this part of the village has been cut off by some hairy arsed and bored builder types who are ooooing and arrrhhhing over a hole in the road.
It's 6.45 am and before I take Chris to the station, I am pottering around killing time.
A chap in a silver pick up has just passed the cottage and we both wave cheerfully at each other.
We do this regularly
I have no idea who he is.
He has no idea who I am
But we wave.
It has become a habit.
On our afternoon walk, the dogs and I will pass parents waiting for their children in their cars by the school.
I will wave and nod shyly at two of them.
They are always there, as am I and we all will look for each other is the same for the unknown elderly lady in the corner bungalow...she has a frail look and blue skinny arms...and the old chap that lives in the house by the garage, he always wears a cap
All of us look out for each other
It has become a ritual.

I suspect that commuters play this little game more than I do. Especially when human nature dictates that you always have to sit in the same spot on the same part of 6.10 from Cockfosters and I suspect even the most antisocial member of the human race gains some sort of solace from a regular jaunty wave or a mouthed "hello" we not?

Yesterday one of "my" Dad's outside the school opened his window when I passed
He smiled in that slightly pained way, people do when they know there's some bad news coming
"I hate to ask but where's the bulldog?" he asked kindly
I explained with the same story I have repeated to a score of locals and he said he was very sorry
"I've missed seeing her" he added
It was nice of him to say it.

Do anyone else out there have "regulars" of their own? People they "see" everyday?
answers on a postcard please 


  1. I hide in shop doorways when I see anyone I know approaching. Town life is so much more impersonal.

  2. It is traditional, here in France, to say a collective good morning to everyone when you walk into a shop or Post Office, etc. A mumble of good mornings is then offered in return. I rather like that!

  3. I have people on the buses I use who look out for me. Which is heart warming and embarassing in equal measures.

  4. Here, on the edge of nowhere, it is normal to acknowledge people in some way, even if you don't know them, a greeting, a smile, a nod, or a polite twitch of the index finger, if you are driving, (of course you have to make sure you select the correct finger!). Those who don't follow the local code are dismissed as being 'townies'.

  5. Years ago when I walked to the bus stop to go to work I was told by an elderly neighbour that she 'set her clock' by me. Which of course always made me feel guilty if I was running late - I didn't want her to miss her favourite tv programme because of me.

  6. Yeah, here we develop nicknames for them; Weird Cat Lady Down The Street, The Drunk Teenagers across the way, 'the mailbox guy', 'the ford truck guy', 'the van lady'.

    I would assume i'm probably just 'that coal miner' to them as well.

    Across West Virginia it's normal to wave at passerby's on the winding roads. You don't know them, they don't know you - but we wave anyway, like a gesture for sharing the same narrow rural road.

  7. In the American 'South' especially the small towns, it's customary to raise your hand from the steering wheel as you pass another driver. Oftentimes just a one-finger acknowledgement is suffice,(No not THAT finger).
    The first time my brother came to visit, he would constantly say "Who was that?"
    I would reply "Dunno, just wave".
    Before he returned to England he was lifting his finger to every passing driver, he's smile when they in turn acknowledged his gesture ;)
    I've noticed this does not happen in Nashville and other large cities, more the village types...

    Yes, I'm sure everyone misses Mabel :(

  8. We have a man who lives around the corner. neatly dressed, very conservatively so and about my age. He walks to the shops every morning. For the past two year I have said "Good morning" to him. At first all I got was a shruggy nod of the head. Then we progressed to a grunted response. Last year he actually started saying good morning back to me.

    This year we are up to one sentence comments on the weather (with a smile).

    I think he lives alone and I suspect he is lonely but very unwilling to 'open up' with strangers!

  9. as a regular commuter 6:50 or 7:21 up in the morning 16:55 or more commonly 17:25 back in the evening I see many of the same faces, some smile, an occasional nod most though with no acknowledgement at all. Which is partly sad but also I'm an isolationist by nature, I prefer the anonymity of a crowd if I'm honest.

    I know a couple by name but most I have nicknames for... "phone girl" as she is always on the phone "T Tony" - poor man (I'll not divulge but he has an affliction he clearly fights on a moment by moment basis), backpack girl - short young thing, always has a huge backpack (what the hell is in there!), Bike man - has an intrigying fold up bike, always first up to unfold his bike and off the train at London, Trainer Lady - always wears trainers and sprints off the platform, "Dark woman" always black - everyday... bar one, she got on with a bright yellow coat... next day... black! etc.

    I wonder what the hell the call me?! Gormless looking git - that would fit

  10. Fellow commuters on the train.
    I am fairly anti-social though, to preserve my writing time

  11. The (unspoken) rule in our little town is "if you make eye-contact, a spoken greeting is mandatory." Like your village's all about watching out for each other.

  12. Anonymous12:29 pm

    We are in a small city where people keep their heads down and mind their own business...face straight ahead on elevators etc...sad.

  13. First of all, I loved your post, love the way you write. So very human. I know, I always say that but it's true.

    To Brit in Tennessee, I live in the boonies, too, and we do the exact same finger wave!! So funny that it seems to be everywhere in villages and rural areas.

    There are so many "people I don't know" here... there's Hershey's Dad (my husband rescued his dog, Hershey, a couple years back) who drives around in a battered turquoise pick-up truck; there's the "walking lady" who I wave at every morning on my way to work; there's the "weird guy" who never waves and chops his wood as he needs it instead of letting it season - it's a wonder he hasn't had a blazing chimney fire.

    Most of all there's the coffee lady who I see at the drive-through window every morning as I buy an extra large black coffee to go. She knows my voice, knows my order, and as soon as I order her own voice brightens and she says happily, "Good morning, Chipper!" She calls me Chipper, ostensibly because I'm such a happy customer. I love this. That someone I don't really know has a such a cheery nickname for me. I'm sure if she were to post a comment on your blog, John, she would say, "there's this middle-aged old fart named Chipper...."

  14. I always speak to every one I meet, maybe habit from my job. I do like a hardy good morning and a smile, gets me going for the day.

  15. I am loving these replies...funny what sparks a good blog response eh?
    more please

  16. As with most village (or boonies)peeps we wave at our fellow peasants as we are driving. If they don't wave back they are city folk...or smog gobblers as hubby and I call them.
    Jane x

  17. Yes - we have regular passers by whom we see out of our kitchen window. We have given than all names. There is "the naked man" who forgets to close his bedroom curtains when he has the light on. There is "the bath hat lady" - a very elderly lady who walks very slowly wearing a very odd hat and often odd shoes. There is "the walking man" who walks the same route three times a day for exercise.

  18. jane
    what are "boonies" exactly?

  19. There are not too many people I don't say hello to in passing; habit I suppose from years of Customer Service or just my bubbling personality? LOL

  20. I am shocked to learn there are folks in your village you do not know.

    I commute on the interstate, and the only way I'd recognize someone is by the stickers on their rear windows.

  21. Especially on our street residents wave as they drive by. We're at the top of the road, so we get everybody. If we're not looking up for some reason they honk, too. I've spilled some fine coffee over this.

  22. Years ago, I spotted someone I vaguely recognised when out shopping. I started to head for side aisle to avoid him, but he went the same way, so I resigned myself to speaking to him. But as I approached him, I realised that this acquaintance was my reflection in a full-length mirror. It was quite a relief!

  23. Finger waves, here, too. Especially if both drivers are in pick up trucks. When my son left for college in another city he took a ride into the country and was comforted when someone gave him a nod and finger wave. He didn't feel as homesick.

    I love the photo of the 3 terriers.

  24. At my last location, everyone waved to everyone when we first arrived. Then our rural little township was 'discovered', and waving was less common.

    At my current location, i waved to everyone from habit at the old place. Some ignored me, some waved back. I got to know a few of them, so we'd wave 'for real' with a smile and a hello as they passed

    When the boat arrived last year, and sat in the driveway, i was out most afternoons after my work day, working on it until it got dark. A bunch of people who did not acknowledge my waving to them suddenly waved and smiled at me.

  25. alison
    Many of the school children "come in" to the Trelawnyd from other villages!

  26. John, as has been said a few times above me, here in the Southern US, it's very normal for passing cars to wave at each other, but it seems prevalent only in the rural areas. When I am driving in the country at the farm, I get the finger wave off the steering wheel, and I return the gesture and I must admit, it makes me smile.

    Now in Houston, the big city, we don't get the finger wave. Perhaps a different finger of sorts, but that's another story, ha.

    By the way 'the boonies' is just another way of saying the middle of the country, the middle of nowhere, small town far away from the big city, etc. Our farm is "out in the boonies". LOL!

  27. I see the same people walking their dogs and I've given names to them all - Slow Walker, Recuperating Lady (she walks like she's recovering from back surgery but she doesn't seem to be getting any better), Lungey Dog (this thing always has a go at mine). We wave our bags of poo at each other as we shout good morning across the street.

  28. Anonymous3:51 pm

    I get the finger wave from drivers when I'm walking the dogs. I can only nod because my hands are occupied. From the walkers/runners, it's a quick good morning/afternoon. The faces and vehicles change constantly, which is the nature of living in the residential area of a resort ranch.

    My brother did get serenaded by a hay wagon full of ranch visitors for his 40th birthday. (I had signs out announcing the event.) And I missed it!

  29. It's funny how we do this (and you really do have a way with words, John). I always stand in the same spot when I pick up Roz from school. There are certain parents I say hi to, but not always, as sometimes I'm a bit lost in my dark head, and most people seem a bit pained and awkward (or is that just me?) to be stuck together momentarily. People are a bit weird in Ontario, I have to say. I always enjoyed talking to people at the bus stop in England, saying hi in a morning to passers by (and it wasn't rural). Here in Ontario, it's a bit like living with muted robots. I feel quite disconnected from society, and have by this point, decided I'm better off in my own world. (And blog world!)

  30. yep! I wave to an old man every day as I go by his bungalow with the dogs. I always thought he looked frail and lonely with his white hair and skinny little arms.
    One I day I met him skipping along in the town, he told me he was 80 years old and was shopping for some of his neighbours who were 15 years younger, but "couldn't get out, poor things" :-)

  31. Mrs Millership, the old lady who lives next door to the plots.

    She attacks everyone but me (physically and verbally), maybe because I give her eggs every week or maybe because I treat her with a bit of respect.

    Ooo, and Jennifer Lopez.

  32. I also love Norman Rockwell's illustrations. Nice to see them here.

    I suppose I'll have to go out and buy a postcard if I want to answer your question.

    So, how do you know the bored builders have hairy asses?

  33. There are so many people I wave to, and they wave back. Sadly we don't know each others' names.

    coming from a farming community, I am very familiar with the index finger wave, and the nod. Out here in California, well, that does not happen. We drive too fast.

  34. This is such a populated area that I don't tend to see the same faces very often. But what's weird is when someone gives me a cheery hello and like you I haven't the slightest idea who they are. And you can hardly stop them and say "Excuse me, who are you exactly?"

  35. I've always had the habit of waving or saying hello to people, whether I know them or not. And of striking up conversations with people near me while waiting in line, with cashiers, etc. Most people open up and seem to enjoy the exchange. (Sometimes, a little too much so.) Those who don't care to return a smile or wave, or who don't care to talk, well, that's fine, too. Different strokes.

  36. When I was young and went to work on the bus, we all eventually got to know each other very very well. We all even went to one young lads wedding (he was called Heathcliffe!!) We shared each others lifes and stories and I really loved it. xxx

  37. My lady has met all sorts of people in the village because of the wee dog, Keezia. Keezy is friendly to EVERYONE and greets people with a smile so it makes them smile too. Even teenagers who normally wouldn't give her a look stop and chat about the dog and rather disreputable-looking men standing in a group smoking are greeted happily by Keezy and end up smiling and nodding hello to my. Keezy is a magic dog.

  38. Anonymous10:20 pm

    Our big old Akita died three years ago and people we don't know but see regularly when we're out walking still ask about him. It's nice to know that people remember him.

    Years ago we lived in a U-shaped building for a few months and even though the living room windows facing the courtyard were large and it was easy to see inside the other units, few people ever closed their blinds. There were the newlyweds, the harpist, the man with the cats.... I wonder how they categorized us.

  39. Boonies, in the middle of nowhere.
    Jane x

  40. I like Norman Rockwell, too.

    I nod to the neighbors when I see them, and people often wave as they go by, down at the farm.

  41. In life we seem to have divisions of relationships with others - right down from our partners and close blood relations to the sort of people you are referring to with whom we literally only have nodding acquaintance. But they also make life's journey more bearable and have their part to play.

  42. There's an elderly lady in my neighborhood who used to walk an equally elderly sheltie every day. She disappeared for a couple of weeks, and I wondered....until she came back out, on crutches, with an aide walking the dog! It's funny how you nod to someone daily for a couple of years without ever knowing their name.


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  44. Yes I do. One of the brothers from the fish & chip shop had a massive stroke so now sits in his electric chair watching the world go by. If I'm on his side of the road I stop to chat & if on the other, I wave.
    I used to wave at the same bloke sitting in an office on my way to catch the bus home from school. It became a ritual.
    Carry on waving John.

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  46. I wave to everyone I see in my town - there are 6 other residents and I wave to everyone I drive pass cause they have to be a neighbouring farmer even if I haven't met them yet :) Love living in the aussie bush

  47. My GF works in a coffee shop. So on many mornings I take her to work a little early and we sit and have a coffee together in the shop. It has a great view looking out to the St. John"s harbour ( ) There are many people I see every morning there and say good morning too but I don't know their names etc.
    One person I do check in on though is Carl. Carl has been a "paperboy" for 52 years. He sells the local paper on the street in front of the building where the coffee shop is. He has many people who check in on him . He gets grand gifts @ Christmas. Usually hats and mitts and all things about being warm. There is a store in the building that sells magazines and papers and such but no one buys the local paper from them unless Carl has run out.

  48. amongst the "angling" fraternity.... I must be on nodding and "catching owt?" terms with hundreds of people.... it's rare when I'm fishing that I can even be that bothered to talk to people.... but we might nod at each other across a pond!!!

  49. Hi John!

    I live in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan in the States. We moved here 14 years ago from a more urban area where waving was considered strange. It is the norm for "Yoopers" to wave to one another, flash a peace sign (the hippie group!) or give a head nod. Only the truly anti-social folks ignore the unspoken protocol. You can always spot the tourists by their puzzled looks when you give them a wave.

  50. Hi John!

    I live in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan in the States. We moved here 14 years ago from a more urban area where waving was considered strange. It is the norm for "Yoopers" to wave to one another, flash a peace sign (the hippie group!) or give a head nod. Only the truly anti-social folks ignore the unspoken protocol. You can always spot the tourists by their puzzled looks when you give them a wave.

  51. People I see every day:

    Older lady in shocking pink anorak (rain or shine) dragging terrier.

    Grizzly old gent with alsatian.

    The hairless bloke opposite who always gives me a smile. Hardly surprising when you cop a load of his missus:(

    Ann next door who I've never warmed to because she laughs loudly all the time. Has to be fake.

    And my favourite person of all...A man with learning difficulties who waves and yells at me as I strut towards the post office.He wears an Australian type hat, you know the ones, the ones with corks.His smile is genuine.


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