The first time someone saluted me on the road it actually startled me. You see, it was one of those pointy, fingertip salutes whereby the person wags their finger a wee bit as if, in my mind, to say, “hey, you shouldn’t do that”. I immediately checked to make sure I was driving on the right side of the road, which I was (for a change) and then I tried to mentally devise what I could have possibly been doing wrong. Soon another car came racing by and did the same action, which further boosted my anxiety. After 5 more cars and 4 pointy salutes (btw, I was in Tipperary and I rarely see this type of salute in our neck of the woods…we seem to have a lot of hand waves and head nods) I finally arrived at my destination. I immediately described this strange behaviour to my friends and, after a laugh at my expense, they explained that sure, it was merely a polite way to acknowledge you and say hello.
This is rural hospitality. And I am struck by it. Now, it is not to be mixed up with urban hospitality, i.e. scribbling “wash me please” on a dirty car or graciously keeping your head down on the subway. No, saluting and a few other lovely gestures are a true callback to times past…where being a decent and helpful person was simply a selfless act of kindness. Not saying that city dwellers are inhospitable, I won’t generalize-but I can’t claim to have ever been saluted in this way by a driver in L.A., NYC or MPLS. Unless, of course, you consider flipping a certain centrally located finger or sounding a wailing horn the same thing.
Calling in for a cup of tea unannounced is another one of those courteous gestures. Where we live you will always hear of “so and so” calling over to “so and so’s” for a warm cuppa and a chat to catch up on all the latest gossip (funerals, pregnancies, the priest and the weather, for example). Around here it still is nearly as much a ritual as going to church every Sunday. On the other hand, where I come from in the USA, the door doesn’t get answered unless it is known in advance whom the caller may be and what exactly they want with you. It is practically considered to be rude or perhaps even sneaky to pop by unannounced. You’d have to nearly “book in” at least a day in advance and declare your intentions for the visit with someone even as close as your best girlfriend. These are two extremes and at this stage I fall nicely into the middle.
Give me a ring to make sure I am home, and I will be happy to see you.
And if I drive past you on the road, I will salute.