Years ago, a friend printed up a bunch of t-shirts that he used as Christmas presents. Along with a picture of the members of Buena Vista Social Club (no spring chickens themselves) there was a caption: “Grow old. Be Nice. Have Fun.”
I had ‘being nice’ on my mind a couple of days ago when driving past a park close to my house. Someone I know was there with her dog, sitting on a bench close to the road. So, I pulled over and rolled down the passenger window with the intention of a smile and a wave (i.e. being nice) before driving on.
The problem was this – she did not turn to see who had pulled up a few metres away. Now, admittedly, an old Toyota Fortuner – with roof racks – is not exactly a head turner. Under normal circumstances I would have called her name, which would have worked fine if she had been a passenger in the car. Under these circumstances, my whisper would have been audible, but at a distance of several metres – outdoors – there was no chance.
I was in a quandary. She appeared to be making an effort to remain isolated (funny how phonetically connected that is to ‘ice’), but she wouldn’t know what car I drive.
Still determined to bring the warmth of my friendliness into her day, I then got out of my car, but I hadn’t walked a metre before she had left the bench – apparently alerted by the sound of the car door opening – and had started walking determinedly into the park.
I could, of course, have jogged after her, but without being able to call out a cheerful “hello” as I approached, would have come across very stalker-ish. I was a split second away from being granted freedom of the city to Loserville.
One shouldn’t need military analogies for ‘being nice’, but in my case this is going to be a battle waged at close quarters, to which I shouldn’t commit myself until I can see the whites of their eyes. For all else there’s SMS, email and Facebook.