Flag waving and fireworks for the Aussies, and a long weekend for us. And boy is it hot. Not so much hot, but sticky gross humid. I know, we can't complain when it's in the minus twenties in Fredericton, so I won't. Just know that we are now forced to go to the beach regularly. Okay, that was unfair. But think of Edie, who gets to show off her new hot pink bikini bottoms. She allows about four waves to crash around her before she gets upset; the controlled environment of her bathtub is much more to her liking.
I've been watching a fair bit of cricket lately, it being mid-season and all. The Aussies are engaged in a series with South Africa, and I must admit, it is a bit intriguing. Plenty of strategy involved that kind of makes up for the lack of excitement. I'm sure Laura is thrilled to know that I've adopted yet another sport.
So the title of this post is actually the subject as well. I have always been a bit of an obsessive about on-the-street greetings. Growing up in a small town (Miramichi), we learned that it was impolite to pass someone on the street without saying hello. Since then I've lived in Halifax, Fredericton, and Brisbane, and you might be surprised, but the largest city (Brisbane at >1 million) has people that are more likely to say hello to you than Halifax or Fredericton, the latter city having a deserved reputation as being a bit snooty.
To me it's also not only the frequency with which people greet others on the street, but also how they do it. Miramichiers and folks from other small Atlantic Canadian communities (Fredericton excepted) give the short nod in a downward direction, often accompanied by a "how's she goin'?" (to which a Miramichier would reply "the very best!"). While living in Halifax during my undergrad days amongst people from "away" (i.e. southern Ontario), I learned that Upper Canadians do not nod at you the way Maritimers do. Instead they give an upward thrust to the head, in a way that always came across to me as a bit arrogant. Where the Maritimer gives a downward nod that speaks of humility, perhaps mixed with a bit of shame at our collective poverty, the Upper Canadian's nod speaks of pride and confidence. Who knows, maybe with Ontario becoming a have-not province, the frequency of upward head nods will decrease.
Of course, it is likely that these head movements as greetings are borrowed and altered from other cultures. In the 1000 page epic novel "Shantaram" (highly recommended by the way), author Gregory David Roberts, an Australian hiding from the law in Bombay, writes about the Indian head wiggle:
"No discovery pleased me more, on that first excursion from the city, than the full translation of the famous Indian head wiggle...........What I learned, on the train, was that a universal message attached to the gesture, when it was used as a greeting, which made it uniquely useful........Gradually, I realised that the wiggle of the head was a signal to others that carried an amiable and disarming message: I'm a peaceful man. I don't mean any harm."
So there you have it. The subtleties of human behaviour. No doubt wherever you are reading this there are unique body movements that carry social messages. That brings us to Australia. Just when I thought there were no other ways to move your head in greeting, I began noticing that Aussies do yet another variation, a sideways jerk of the head. Not up, not down, but sideways. The message it sends is reminiscent of the stereotypical Aussie persona, carefree and bold.
So when you see someone on the street, give them a hello (or in Bermuda, a "y'all right?") and a head nod, preferably one in the downward direction.