I remember the days, back in my childhood, back in Littleville USA. We had a population that just barely exceeded two thousand people. Walking the streets of Littleville, you’d always manage an exchange with a passerby – a “hello” or a “good morning” would be the minimum, and a short exchange could follow in cases where folks knew each other. The latter situation was a common feature of life in Littleville, but not every person was a person you knew. Still, there was always a greeting coming from one side or the other, even in the fifty percent of instances where neither party recognized the other as an acquaintance.
Fast forward to Cary, North Carolina. I have walked the streets of Cary, NC for about the past twelve years. I am known as the umbrella man, and almost every citizen recognizes me by my sun shield, although many do not know its purpose. I almost always greet the other folk I meet, when we come to pass one another on one of the many sidewalks, streets, and trails that run throughout the city. Usually I make a reference to the weather, to the pets that they have in tow, or to some such other small-talk comment, but from me it’s always a friendly acknowledgement that I’ve passed another person on the trail. I’d hazard a guess that about a quarter to a third of those I so greet respond with any acknowledgement at all. Some are deep in thought, but others are … well … definitely not from the Littleville of my youth.
The truly telling fact about the environment I live in as a retiree, is how many people will greet me if I do not greet them first. Are you ready for this? In twelve years of trekking across Cary, NC, and over its sidewalks and its greenway trails, not a single solitary individual has ever initiated a greeting. Not a one.
I walk four to eight miles a day, and that’s added up to a lot of miles. And – in all those miles and in all those years, not a single person initiated a greeting. Compared to Littleville, retirement city is a pretty significant step down, civilization-wise. Just my two cents.