While walking around the roads in the north woods near Eagle River, WI, the driver of each car I met lifted a couple of fingers off the steering wheel in greeting. My memory was sent back to growing up in a small town in southern Missouri. Everyone I met cruising Broadway lifted a couple of fingers in greeting. Whether or not I knew them or they knew me, we greeted each as neighbors.
This doesn’t happen very often in the city. If anyone lifts a finger, it is more likely the middle finger. Our acknowledgement of each other isn’t simply because we share the same gift of road and space. Our presence is more likely acknowledged if we do something that pisses someone else off. The middle finger is not a neighborly response of greeting but it is a response to a feeling of threat by the other person.
I know we can’t live in the city the way we lived in the small town. I know that there are too many people for us to greet each other with a pleasant acknowledgement. We would be so busy acknowledging the thousands of people we pass by that we couldn’t do anything else. Fingers lifted in greeting would have time to do nothing else.
But, I wonder what it would be like if we were a little more neighborly to those we happen to be in proximity to in the grocery store or at the coffee shop? If we were more open to each other in the ordinary intercourse of life we might be less threatened by the strangers we meet. The middle finger might be less necessary if we used the first two fingers more often.