From early in my time as an adult, I said hello and smiled at strangers on the street. In a large percentage of the cases, I got friendly smiles. This interaction with people has been a huge part of my life for nearly 50 years.
Unfortunately, when Covid came and the lockdowns and lockdowns came, that changed dramatically. I kept saying hi or smiling and I don’t know if the people I said hi to were smiling because I couldn’t see their faces. But they often lacked any other response, too. They didn’t shake their head or say hello and just walked a little faster behind me. Remember this was outdoors and that by September 2020 it was very clear to those of us who looked at the studies that transmission of the coronavirus outdoors, especially to people walking by at all times and at least 2 or 3 feet away, was minimal.
In my area, I’m still seeing a lot of people wearing masks outdoors, but I’d say it’s down to about 15%. I have never given up on saying hello and smiling at people. Now I will take something back.
Last Wednesday my friend and I were walking in Monterey, and a young woman walked to where she could be within a few feet of us. While she was still on the road, she must have seen me looking to make sure that no car that might hit her came through. (It wasn’t there, and she presumably checked it beforehand, but my little alert cost almost nothing.) When she looked at me, she smiled and smiled. Then she gave a big smile and said, “Hi” with loads of positive energy. I said “Hi” and smiled even bigger.
Watching this, my friend said, “Do you know her?” I replied “No”.
I think it’s important to do things that I love. People’s fear of Covid-19 and the lockdowns, which have been particularly harsh on the California coast, have devastated the community. Ross Roberts once said in congressional testimony: “I want my country back.”
I want my community back.