I had never been much of a stranger-waver. And not under some wildly unfriendly principles — I was just never one to go too far out of my way to lock eyes and greet a fellow walker on a trail, runner on the road, or driver from behind the wheel.
But that was before the coronavirus. Now, it seems like these little moments of human acknowledgement are nothing shy of a necessity for me. And perhaps for all of us.
I first noticed it on one of my early-quarantine drives up-Island.
“Don’t know you. Don’t know you. Don’t know you,” I recall saying aloud as three cars passed from the opposite direction, all three drivers offering a two-to-three finger, “Hey,” from the hand that gripped their steering wheel.
Then, I noticed it a little further up-Island, with a few runners on Middle Road. One peered inside my vehicle and extended a quick, casual peace sign. Another tossed a shaka in clear-as-day approval of the surfboard strapped to my roof. I passed a few bikers who offered head-nods amid their uphill battles.
“Don’t know you. Don’t know you. Don’t know you,” I said again, this time noticing my own noticing and thinking, “But I see you.”
I think there is this real sense of togetherness that I have never personally experienced before. We are all adapting to these “uncertain times.” We are all finding new routines to fill our days. We are all a bit uneasy, perhaps a bit lonely, and doing our best to make the best of it. We are going through this wringer of a reality that puts us all on a similar playing field as far as social outlets go. So I think, for me at least, when I see any sliver of an opportunity to connect with another person, I take it. I have become a stranger-waver, and an avid one.
Runs on Beach Road have become everything, especially on sunny days. Have you noticed the striking blue hues of the water and hypnotizing clearness of the sky? There isn’t tons to celebrate these days, but I have been celebrating that. And when I pass a fellow runner, biker, walker — you can bet I’m going out of my way to try to lock eyes, smile, and wave, in a shared moment of what I interpret as: “I see you, you see me, this sucks, but today is OK and aren’t we lucky to be outside right now?”
So as we busy ourselves about the Island as best as we can, maybe you too have noticed an air of amicability in yourself that you didn’t necessarily claim to possess before. It feels good to connect, and even better to make someone smile, even if it is from under a mask, for a flash of a moment, and from at least six feet apart.
Brittany Bowker is a former MVTimes reporter and editor. She works for the Boston Globe from her home in Oak Bluffs.