As you walk the sidewalks or hike the roads where you live, half the pedestrians or cars you meet send you signals telling you whether you are meeting friends, strangers or somebody in between.

On the sidewalks, if you make eye contact, you get signals. From those who do not return eye contact, you get the signal that you are meeting a stranger or somebody with something else on his or her mind, or possibly somebody who recognizes you but doesn’t want to acknowledge any degree of acquaintance. Leave them alone – they are minding their own business.

Others, when you catch their eye, will give you a small nod. That nod says one of two things. One, that I don’t know or recognize you, but you’re a fellow human being entitled to a casual tip of the hat, but I’m not wearing a hat so I’m giving you a casual nod – one human being to another. The second possibility is I recognize you and I’m sending you a silent “how do you do.”

Those who raise a hand in a wave and say “good morning” are friends or acquaintances who are wishing you well. Enjoy the exchange – it’s one of the benefits of civilization and community. Life would be dreary if we never saw a smile or received a friendly acknowledgment.

Facing the traffic and hiking the roads is another matter entirely. For one thing, windshield glare will prevent you from seeing smiles, facial expressions or nods. About all you can do is watch the driver’s hand on the steering wheel. When both hands remain firmly on the wheel, the driver is a stranger or a disinterested person concentrating on driving. Stay the course driver, I respect what you’re doing.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Sometimes the driver will wave with a single index finger. This one-finger wave is the equivalent of a faint nod – a tip of the hat from one human being to another.

When the driver waves with an entire hand off the steering wheel, that driver is signaling some degree of an acquaintance – “hello, good morning” a friendly gesture – carry on, keep walking. A short honk expresses the same greeting with more enthusiasm.

In all cases, the pedestrian or hiker will respond with an appropriate greeting, except, in place of honking back, a two arm over the head wave will return the enthusiasm.

You can assume this discussion is totally, totally unimportant. Maybe it seems that way at first impulse, but, as has been expressed, no man is an island – we are all connected and we ought to act connected. Or would you rather imagine you are a U.S. senator and you’re meeting another senator of the opposite party and turn your head the other way so somebody doesn’t accuse you of smiling to the opposition – a traitor to your party?

P.S. Columnist Responsibility: About a month ago, I wrote a column pointing out that at a Minnesota Twins baseball game I attended, that at least nine of the players came from south of the border and were part of an “invasion gang of immigrants.” The point was how important these “immigrants” are to the Twins and America in general. Also, they pay millions in taxes.

I received an email from a reader, "Horace Flaccus," who correctly pointed out that two of the players I named were from Puerto Rico.

We all knew, and were reminded when Puerto Rico was smashed by Hurricane Maria in 2018, killing 3,000 people, that Puerto Ricans are American citizens – not foreigners. Flacccus correctly pointed out that my sloppy reporting “promulgated ignorance through inadequate research.” He suggested a tar-and-feather party.

Thank you for your attention to detail Horace and welcome to my tar-and-feather party.