July 7, 2004

For What It’s Worth.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:21 am

I have lived all my life in New Jersey, so I think that I can say with some confidence that the Garden State is not generally known for the friendliness of its citizens. Maybe it’s because there are so many of us packed into such a small state. Maybe it’s because we have more than our fair share of con artists and wiseasses here, and we have learned to be wary of people’s motives (i.e. “What does this guy want?”). Who knows?

By contrast, I have noticed in my travels that people generally seem friendlier in other parts of the country. Passing someone, one on one, on the street almost always begets a “hello,” or “good morning.” I found myself wondering whether I may be partly to blame for my take on the apparent lack of congeniality of many Garden Staters. Although my habit is to greet each person I encounter, one on one, during my morning walk, I thought a little “experiment” was in order.

Accordingly, the other day, I made sure that I smiled and said “good morning” the same way to each person I encountered, one on one, and I kept track of the kinds of responses I received in return. On that day, I encountered and greeted six people. Three people ignored me, and two grunted something unintelligible. One person responded, “Good morning. Isn’t it a beautiful day to be outside?” What was interesting and a little sad to me was that the person who responded in kind (and then some) spoke with a clearly recognizable Eastern European accent.

I concluded from my less-than-scientifically-rigorous observations that if you’re from Eastern Europe, you appreciate being able to walk free on a nice day. It’s a bit of a shame that we often seem to be too busy, too rude, too self-absorbed, too jaded, too callous, too cynical, or maybe just too damned stupid to appreciate what we have.

Note: This is being posted several hours later than I had intended. As I was completing the final paragraph, we lost power in our neighborhood. I read outside for a while by candlelight, which made my eyes tired and served to remind me of the value of Thomas Edison’s invention. I then made myself comfortable in Mr. Recliner in a candlelit room and listened to a small transistor radio. Not a bad way to spend the evening. I’ll bet that the guy from Eastern Europe would agree.

Update: This morning’s scorecard: Three averted sets of eyes, one smile, and four “good mornings” (three of which preceded my “good morning”). Maybe those three people are not from here, or maybe they remember me from previous “good mornings” and have decided that I am neither a kook nor a mugger. 🙂


  1. I know this does not fit in with your topic but when I saw it, immediatley the thought popped into my head, Jim would LOVE this I HAVE to put it on Parkway Rest Stop 😉


    Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man

    Posted by Steve Gigl on June 15, 2004 10:50 PM (See all posts by Steve Gigl)

    Filed under: Books, Books: Food

    How many books have you read with forwards that start with “STOP! DON’T BUY THIS BOOK!”? For that matter, how many cookbooks have you bought that made you laugh out loud? Same answer, I bet. In which case, blogger Steve H. Graham has a cookbook for you: Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: The World’s Unhealthiest Cookbook.

    And what a cookbook it is.

    Comment by Dan Kauffman — July 7, 2004 @ 1:47 am

  2. Now I will comment on your post. Jim I joined AA about 15 years ago and that was the start of a new life BUT it was aa REAL rough time.

    Been awhile, the edge is off and today I can enjoy your reports of good times had by all with good food, good friends and good whiskey.

    I can’t do that myself anymore but I have some GREAT memories of times before the drink got complete control over my life and I feel sorry for those who do not have memories like mine and yours today. 😉

    Anyway when I first started sobering up there was not much good in the world at least from where I was laying on the ground bloody and tore up.

    To add insult to injury my right turn signal went out and I didn’t have the pittance to get it fixed SO I drove around using hand signals.

    Funny thing happened one day. Someone saw me turning thought I was waving and waved back and smiled at me?

    What was that feeling? Felt good. When I got my car fixed I continued to use hand signals. I LIKED folks smiling and waving.

    You keep it up, might make you feel better AND you may never know it might make just that little difference between someone making it through one more day and going home and putting a pistol in there mouth.

    At that point in time I was teetering.

    Don’t worry about reactions, some will think you are batty some will be surprised and not be able to react until you are passed and SOME will

    stop, smile and say “Isn’t it a beautiful day to be outside?”

    Comment by Dan Kauffman — July 7, 2004 @ 1:56 am

  3. Dan,

    Thanks for that. And, I just have to get a copy of that book!

    Comment by Jim - Parkway Rest Stop — July 7, 2004 @ 7:04 am

  4. Coming from a small midwestern town we always greeted people (well, the ones we liked, cause you know everyone in those towns). People would respond in kind. BUT – this was in the 60s and 70s. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago – I’m walking downtown, no one would make eye contact. Say Hello, or Good Afternoon – no response.

    I make a habit if I’m in an area that I feel comfortable to greet people. If I’m someplace strange or uncomfortable NO WAY.

    Guess I’m saying as time changed people changed. We’ve lost our innocence so to speak (especially compared to my version of the “good ole days”.

    But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and remind people how nice those exchanges can be.

    Comment by Tammi — July 7, 2004 @ 8:10 am

  5. Jim,

    It is true that a bit of friendly kindness makes one feel real good. I always thought that when I worked out it was the exertion that helped control an increasing anxiety (depression?)but realized after many months that it was more. People at the gym were very friendly and in many cases very helpful to an out of shape old guy-a friendly hello and even “you are doing well” from many different people makes one feel good. And, in smelly sweats and tees-it does not matter what “you do for a living”. God I hate that question. Keep saying hello-one out of six is better han none at all.

    Comment by A Friend — July 7, 2004 @ 8:19 am

  6. Careful. You might start something!

    Comment by Craig — July 7, 2004 @ 11:25 am

  7. I try to at least muster a half-smile when I pass strangers. And it paid off, big-time, just the other day, when I met up with the woman who announced that she didn’t really like people. We “connected,” but misanthropically, right then and there, and went our separate ways. Heh.

    Comment by topdawg — July 7, 2004 @ 2:55 pm

  8. Jim – as a lifelong Jersey resident also, I generally agree. Even at work, where I see the same darned people every day, many of them will not bother to make eye contact when you pass them in the hall. On the positive side, though, I find strangers here in my hometown as friendly as anywhere else I’ve been in the States. Odd little town this is.

    Comment by Lynne — July 8, 2004 @ 7:59 pm

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