When we first moved to Virginia from Colorado, we spent a lot of time driving around in Red Van. We drove through neighborhoods looking for houses. We drove through the old neighborhoods where my dad grew up, visiting all the places he used to hang out. We drove to visit family we hadn’t ever met, or hadn’t seen in years. And on almost every one of these trips, we’d drive by people in their yards and on the street who would wave at us, and my dad would wave back.
This bizarre behavior would immediately launch a thousand questions. “Do you know that guy? Who is that? Why did they just wave at us?”
Dad explained that these people were just being friendly. This is what people did in the South, he said. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know them.
This was totally baffling. Why would people wave at us when we didn’t even know them?
It took years for us to get used to this, and when I began driving, I was really uncomfortable waving back at people I didn’t know. At first I completely ignored them, and then I went through a phase of kind of doing a half-assed nod in return, splitting the difference between being outright rude and outright friendly.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed myself waving back to those friendly people. And once in a while, I even smile.