The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Do You Hello?

cows, Kansas, Gypsum Hills

Friendliness is my nature. This is such a deep instinct that I’m always the one saying hello when I pass people in public. In Vienna, when you say hello to strangers, sometimes they cross the street. In Istanbul, sometimes they follow you off the train. In Hastings, Nebraska, they say hello back. In each new place, it may be hit or miss.

Sitting in a big Chevy truck on the open roads in Kansas, I delight in the expansive skies and the tidy rows for planting. And I uncover many a mute hello. I am perched on the receiving end of acknowledgement, greetings, and well wishes from oncoming traffic.Β  The β€œfarm finger”–either the pointer finger or sometimes the first two fingers–raised in a quick salute to other trucks. The farmers offer a gesture of hello, sometimes accompanied with an automatic and barely visible nod of the head. I hear the nod is for someone you know, and “the point” is for general good will. These are automatic, my farming sources tell me.

Because here, well, we hello.


turkey, Kansas

There’s a turkey in the middle of the photo…

29 comments on “Do You Hello?

  1. vanbraman
    May 20, 2013

    Thanks for some wonderful memories. I learned to drive on the rural roads of Kansas and know the greeting customs well. They don’t work so well here in California :-). They don’t give the Farm Finger, it is another one they give.

    I have also spent a lot of time in Hastings over the years and will second the fact that they are very friendly people.

    • Haha, yes, more often in traffic we see the other chosen finger. I much prefer the kind greeting. πŸ™‚
      I went to school at Hastings, and taught there for a few years. It would have been quite odd not to “hello” while out and about. One could cause great offense.
      Glad to lead you on the trip down memory lane! Thanks for reading!

  2. Expat Eye
    May 21, 2013

    I love the ‘farm finger’! Reminds me of my childhood summers in Cork, Ireland πŸ˜‰ Not so many hellos in Latvia. Still struggling to get used to that.

    • In Latvia is there acknowledgement generally, though? Or is it all eyes forward?

      • Expat Eye
        May 21, 2013

        All eyes forward. Or else looking you up and down to see what you’re wearing.

      • Haha! “Hmm, which shoes did I put on today?” πŸ™‚

      • Expat Eye
        May 22, 2013

        Whatever they are, they won’t be good enough!! πŸ˜‰

  3. Mary Louise Wehunt
    May 21, 2013

    Yes, there is a turkey in the photo! I enjoy reading your posts so much. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much, Mary Louise! If I had been quicker on the draw, I could have gotten more turkey in the shot, but he was a fast one!

  4. Daniela
    May 21, 2013

    In NZ we say G’day, hows going -:)!

    • Ah! And do you stay close to wait for an answer, or is this something you can say in passing? πŸ™‚

      • Daniela
        May 22, 2013

        Mostly stay for the answer -:)!

      • Very good of you! I remember my German prof being scandalized that Americans say, “Hi, how are you,” while still walking on by. πŸ™‚

  5. Rosie Amber
    May 21, 2013

    It’s a bit hit and miss over here in the UK, it works sometimes, it depends where you are, sadly some people think you’re mad others rush past eyes down terrified of contact.

    • Hi Rosie Amber,
      Yes, well. πŸ™‚ I know that in cities it can be different. Some places and times may call for more defensive postures.
      I have a habit of making eye contact with people too, so it’s better if I just steer clear of some cities. πŸ™‚
      Thanks for your comment!

  6. poppyjocat
    May 21, 2013

    Yes I do say hello, sometimes it can lead to a great friendship, sometimes it can break someone out of a cycle of depression.
    I have dug out an old blog, and posted it here, hope you dont mind,

    I have a very dear friend, whom I met in a coffee shop. It was raining, it was miserable, I had just been into an old book shop and stocked up on yet m collectable and odd little cookery books, The coffee shop was empty apart from the staff and a woman on her own sat in the corner staring out of the window. Being me – I did my usual entrance of a comedy slippy fall on the floor thanks to my laziness in not getting my boots re-heeled.
    The lady came to help me get up and restore myself to a human being and not a pile of wet rags covered in dusty books.
    The shop owner made me a big pot of tea, and gave me a sticky bun for the shock, then quickly set to wiping the floor up!
    My helper who had been in her world, then came back to mine, as we laughed about my acrobatics, then found a mutual love of odd cookery books, she loved my copy of Fanny and Johnnie Cradocks cook book. After a few drinks, we realised that the shop was suddenly full as i was lunch time and we had nattered for 2 hours!
    With reluctance to part, we found another mutual love of bric-a-brac and kitchenalia, of which this town had shops ‘a-plenty’. We ended our day together over a glass of wine, and exchanges of numbers and promises to contact and arrange another day.
    After a week, I received a call, …. Would I like to make up a number for a trip to the theater? My New Friend, had tickets to see The Importance of Being Ernest, there was a spare ticket, which had been paid for, but the person couldn’t make it. We had a great night, I met more new friends.
    All this happened 8 years ago, we are all still friends, we have amazing holidays and days out.

    But, What I haven’t said is this.

    The day I met my friend in that coffee shop, was the day I saved her life.

    After a few years, she admitted that in the bag on the table in that cafe, was a bottle of pills. She had been planning to take her life for some months. She was in the cafe that day, waiting for a train, the journey would take her some where unknown, she would find a quiet place and go to sleep. It had been meticulously planned, letters had been written and left on her kitchen table. Living alone, loosing her job, had allowed the depression she was in, to envelope her until she could no longer breathe.
    My slippery antics and flying book collection had snapped her out of this darkness, my chatterings, love of quirky bottle openers and odd shaped teapots in the kitchenalia shop had “woken her old self” out of a dark slumber (as she put it) .
    I have to admit, tears were shed, lots and lots of them. They still are …… but I still have my much loved friend. She is with me, and she is helping others.

    So yes, saying hello to a stranger is a good thing.

  7. Pingback: Saying Hello can save a life | Hello from poppyjocat

  8. hughcurtler
    May 21, 2013

    Not only in Kansas, but in the American Midwest generally. It’s part of the charm.

  9. anglophiletoad
    May 21, 2013

    I miss the “farm finger” so much. It makes me sad, the extent to which we do not “hello” anymore, like we don’t even belong to the same species. I try to greet as many people as possible as I walk around Baylor’s campus and library, but it’s hard even to catch their eye. Sometimes they seem to actually try not to make contact…

    Great post. You make me homesick…

  10. joannerambling
    May 21, 2013

    Of course I say hello……………………..or hi………….or giday……………..or something like that……… not do so would be just rude…………..

  11. Carl D'Agostino
    May 26, 2013

    I voted for Bob Dole.

  12. Bharti
    May 29, 2013

    Hello! πŸ™‚

  13. emilievardaman
    June 8, 2013

    I live in a small town in southeastern Arizona. I speak to everyone on the streets. It surprises the tourists sometimes, but their faces usually light up. I have ended up in wonderful conversations with some.
    In larger cities, I at least try to make eye contact and smile. Saying hello doesn’t seem to work as well. But sometimes even in a city I will speak. The results, though, aren’t quite the same as in the small town I live in!

    • How lovely! I have also ended up in some lovely experiences from random “hellos.”
      I am a big fan of eye contact, even just as a way to assess where I am. It helps me discover a lot of stories too!
      Thank you for reading and commenting, Emilie!

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