Is it not strange how much we tend to become like our parents? When I was a small boy, many years ago, my dad used to take me for long walks. We were on the Island of Arran then, off the west coast of Scotland and cars were a rarity compared to the traffic of today. Every time a vehicle passed, my dad would raise his hand in acknowledgement, and the driver would return the complement and off we all would go. There were no words exchanged; it was a simple gesture of politeness that merely indicated a mutual respect.
On Saturday I was walking with my wife along country roads and I acknowledged passing cars in the same manner. It was a quiet road and a dry, still day with no reason for stress or rush, yet of the dozen or so vehicles that passed, only one driver bothered to return my simple salute. Most drivers either ignored us completely or gave us a look that would have cracked glass. More interesting: the driver who showed politeness was a young woman in a small car. The worst reaction came from older people – men and women – in larger and more expensive vehicles.
Was this a class thing? Did the drivers of larger vehicles believe that they were too important to wave to a mere pedestrian? I wonder what their reaction would have been if I had been standing beside a Rolls Royce or a Bentley?
The thought reminded me of an incident when I was working for the Royal Mail. I worked in a small delivery office in the Scottish Borders, and I doubled up; one day I was a delivery postman, the next I was manager. Such things were normal. On the Monday I was acting manager and had a meeting in the head office in Edinburgh. I wore the fancy suit and was treated like a lord with doormen calling me sir and all the trappings of importance. The next day I was back, but as a postman, delivering a load of mail to be sorted. The same people who had been bowing and scraping on the previous day treated me as if I was something nasty to be scraped off their shoes.
Interesting, this perception of importance. I was no less a person when I did a blue collar job than a white collar, yet the treatment and attitude of people could not have been different. Why is that?
I do not have an answer; I only have the question.
But next time somebody waves at me from a passing car, I will be sure to reply, and if I will ensure to treat everybody with courtesy, politeness and consideration, whatever their job, class, creed, colour or perceived status. After all, that is only good manners.