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I'm Okay. You're Okay. Now Leave Me Alone and Go Away!

Image result for empty pockets

by Vol-E

My city and neighborhood are both relatively small, and the neighborhood falls along the lower end of the economic spectrum. People live close together, and many destinations are easily accessible by bus or on foot.

It's not unusual, as I drive the streets around my home, to encounter pedestrians. They often stroll along right in the middle of the road. They'll look over their shoulders, see my car approaching, and then casually move along to the side so I can pass. Sidewalks are available, but rarely used, because they're narrow, and often obstructed by trees, trash, or shrubbery.

In any case, as I drive past, I'll wave. Mind you, I don't make eye contact when I wave, and don't check to see if the person waved back. I'm too busy watching the road for other cars, additional pedestrians, and runaway pets or children. I just lift the flat of my palm into the air (i.e. no individual fingers protruding...). Here's what the wave means:

  • Hi/Hello
  • I see you
  • You see me
  • Thanks for moving aside
  • I mean you no harm
  • I will not run you over
  • You live around here and so do I, so we're all in this [whatever "this" means] together.
Here's what my wave does NOT mean:
  • I am desperately looking for a new best friend, and you're it!
  • I can't wait to hear all about your troubles and misfortunes.
  • I have lots of extra money and cannot wait to give it all to you!

I have gotten into the habit, when I see someone walking anywhere near my house, to keep driving, go slowly around the block and hope the person has gone away by the time I get back to where my house is, and turn into the driveway. Mind you, I still wave if I'm close enough to the pedestrian. I can't help it -- that wave is hard-wired by now, even though my loving son has advised me that I look like a nerd or a geek or a dork or something when I do it.

So, in the wake of all this civilized albeit dorky friendliness, why do I then proceed to drive around the block in an effort to avoid having someone see me park in my own driveway?  Because in the social lexicon of my neighborhood, any sort of "friendly" gesture is very often interpreted as the second set of meanings above. I will pull into my driveway after giving that friendly wave, and the wavee will immediately change course, and instead of continuing down the street, they will walk right up my driveway, right up to my car, and as soon as I step out, I hear "Hey ma'am, how you doin'?"

Rut-roh, as my friend Scooby Doo often says. Because if they're calling me "ma'am," they obviously have no actual idea of who I am. And they should -- because I've been involved with my neighborhood association for the entire 9+ years I've lived here, and have often made the rounds of houses on my block to distribute newsletters and community opinion surveys (which are rewarded with a $10 Walmart gift card if you mail yours in within 30 days -- such a deal). I've also picked up trash on Saturday mornings and helped assemble fish sandwiches when it's 90 degrees out and the wind keeps threatening to knock over our tent.

But oddly, people who know me almost never bother me at home. They might call or email or text, but they certainly don't come marching up my driveway and greet me as "Ma'am."

The "How you doin'?" is another dead giveaway. It means "If I say something friendly, maybe you'll be my new best friend, listen to all my cares and woes and give me money."

It does me no good to try to short-circuit the conversation by saying "Don't waste your breath, I have no money to give you," because I've actually tried that, only to get "Well, I wasn't gonna ask you for no money, ma'am, just wanted to see how you were doin', and wish you a blessed day."

Sure you were. And I'm the lead singer for the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

I'm not enough of a wimp to let guilt cave me in, reach into my pocket and hand them cash as a way of apologizing, but I will smile, soften my tone, and engage in an extra 2-3 minutes of pointless and banal conversation, because despite my crusty outer shell, I'm still a "nice girl" at heart, who doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings and lose those oh-so-valuable karma points.

Or get my house paper-n-egged on Halloween.

So that leaves me with two options: The aforementioned drive-around-the-block avoidance technique, or playing out the charade, in which I know the plea for money is coming, just like the punch line of a cheesy commercial, and they know it's coming, they're just waiting for the right moment, like when they can't figure out how to further embellish the current story (spouse is off to war and/or the check was supposed to come in today and/or grandma needs her oxygen and/or would you believe I just got mugged in the parking lot at Dollar General--see how my jaw doesn't quite align anymore, I ought to go see the doctor but I don't have any insurance...), pause with a deep sigh and tell me how incredibly nice, sweet and kind I look and how it was God's hand that they just happened to be making their sad way back home when I drove by, and the Good Lord whispered to them that here was someone who cares enough to help their neighbor!!!

Drive-around-the block usually works.

But I may consider something other than the flat-palm wave one of these days.


How incredibly awkward to be panhandled in your own driveway! But I do understand the flat palmed wave at everybody. It's almost as though you grew up on the Canadian prairies.

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