There used to be an old tire store up Main Street surrounded by properties that have all seen better days. Years ago it was a full-service gas station built in the late 40s or early 50s out of cinder blocks and mortar.
For the most part, however, the old building was insignificant. If it hadn’t been for the man outside, I would’ve never even noticed the place.
Years ago the tire store was painted white, but oil, grease and dirt make a dark entourage at the base of the walls up to a chalky, white at the top. The concrete around it was patchy and dark, stained with layers on layers of grease, dripped motor oil and a host of other dried automotive blood.
One overhead door was always up, and the front door was always propped open with a tire rim. Used batteries, tires and wheel rims lined both edges of the property to form an impromptu fence.
The man who worked there always did something very odd. Whenever he wasn’t busy, which seemed to be most of the time, he stood near the roadside and waved at passing cars. He didn’t smile, and usually didn’t even make eye contact. He just waved.
The man was probably in his late 50’s, early 60’s, clean shaven and tall. He was a slender, Abraham Lincoln looking man, with long lanky arms and fingers. Every day he wore a dark cap, navy button up shirt and blue jeans.
The first time I drove by I wondered if he was getting attention for his business or simply eccentric. But over the years as I drove by, he was always out front by the road waving. Nothing more, just waving.
It got to where I expected him to be outside waving when I was in the area, and he usually was. I would wave back, as would most other locals, but I never knew anything about the man, not even his name, except he spent hours standing and waving each day.
One day driving by it hit me that I hadn’t seen him in quite a while.
A week later I saw his picture in the newspaper standing out front of the tire shop in his self-assigned post of hospitality, waving. The article explained that years before he had randomly stood out front of the store when he wasn’t busy and began waving at people driving by.
He wasn’t trying to increase business. He simply wanted to be neighborly, kind and let others know they were seen and acknowledged.
The man’s philosophy was that some people don’t have anyone to wave or greet them, and although it wasn’t his initial intention, his waving became a life long habit to try and spread joy to those around him.
It’s odd, but sometimes I still think about the waving man. I never met him, or even talked to him. I just waved back.
I wonder if he waved because he also needed to be seen and acknowledged? And then I wonder what I was doing, or where I was going that I was so busy, that I never stopped to actually meet him and ask him myself why he always waved.
I regretfully wonder why I didn’t buy him a Coke and drop it off to him one particularly hot summer day. I could have simply driven up, handed him the cold Coke, spoken and driven away. I never did.
Last week I drove by the old tire store and he crossed my mind. He hasn’t waved out front in a long, long time. In fact, no one is there now. The place is closed, but before I knew it, I did something very odd. I waved.
I hope he saw.