If I’m being polite out of pure obligation, at least return the favor

Many people in my neighborhood like to walk around and enjoy the fresh air. Some put their dogs on a leash before heading out, while others tuck their kids into strollers or wagons. A handful should consider putting their kids on a leash and perhaps hooking them to a tree in the front yard until they return from their walk.

I know, I know. I’m kidding. No one should treat a tree like that. They’re going through enough with the current environmental assault by mankind without having to battle kid-kind, as well. And I’m not saying to leave the kids without a water dish. I’m not a monster.

I pass these folks often when I take my fat belly out for a walk or when I’m driving past them in my truck. I always wave. I don’t know most of these folks. I don’t want to know most of these folks. I don’t want to know most of the folks I know. Yet, I wave.

Maybe I wave because I grew up in a small town, and everybody waved at each other back then. Sometimes we’d even — ugh — talk to these other small-town folks. After all, we probably knew them, and if you’d give my grandma five minutes, she’d explain how we were actually related to them. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t date many girls from my hometown — well, that and the whole “ewwww” response they usually gave me. I guess they were worried about that whole cousin thing, too.

Most of the folks in my neighborhood wave back. Maybe they’re also from small towns. Or, maybe they’re like me and are thinking, “Hopefully, if we wave back, he’ll move along and won’t try to talk to us.” If only they knew there’s no way I’m doing a stop-n-chat. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But there’s a few folks who just stare at you like, “What’s wrong with him? I don’t know him. I can’t wave back. Who waves at a stranger? This has disturbed me greatly.”

There’s no risk of offending them by writing this because I suspect they don’t/can’t read, but I’m not waving because I know you, like you or want to know you. I assure you — I do not! I do it purely out of a sense of polite obligation.

Many people decry a lack of politeness in today’s America, but it’s the things that everyone is politely obligated to do that are slipping.

For instance, when a guy receives a Hallmark card that his lady spent 30 minutes picking out because the words so magically captured how she felt, the guy should politely hold the card for a minimum of 25 seconds and move his eyes back and forth as if he’s actually reading it and then say, “Awwww, that’s sweet.”

“It says, ‘Happy Birthday. I hope you get run over by a garbage truck.’”

“Yeah, but the ‘happy’ part — that was sweet.”

Or, for instance, when you find yourself unloading 27 items in the 10-items-or-less checkout lane at the grocery store as a lady did in front of me yesterday, the polite thing is to say, “Sorry, I’m too stupid to count to 10,” or “Yeah, I know it’s a lot, but I’m a self-centered human being and don’t care.”

“Well, you got the self-centered part right. Not so sure about the human being part.”

Or, when you lose — whether it’s youth baseball, college football, pub trivia or an election — shake the hand of your opponent and congratulate them. And if you lose the presidency, congratulate your opponent or at least show up for their inauguration. Don’t just just take your ball or top secret documents and go home.

Most importantly, if I wave, wave back. I’m only waving out of pure obligation. Just give me an obligatory wave back. And then we can go about our merry little ways.

Besides, I’m in a hurry. I’ve got to pick up five things at the grocery store, and there’s no telling how long it’ll take me to check out if that self-centered, math-challenged lady is there again today.

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