Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Wave Theory
David Simmonds

My wife said "maybe it's because you walk funny: they think you're waving to them".

We were trying to come up with an explanation for why, whenever we went for our morning walk to the post office, people who drove past us gave a cheery wave.


We had upped our stakes this summer and moved from the icy confines of Ottawa to the tropical shores of Lake Ontario - in Wellington, Prince Edward County, to be precise.; Population 1,700. We weren't used to overt displays of neighbourliness.; We needed a rational explanation.

We were down to two possible explanations.; My wife was advancing the first, and had a point.; I do walk funny. Even my new doctor said so.; "I've seen you walking around the village" he said. "I'm reducing your medication. Come back next week and tell me how it's going".

But I had my doubts about the cause and effect relationship.; It's one thing to walk off kilter, and another to precipitate a wave. I did a number of test walks with my hands firmly stuck in my pockets.; Then I walked Duke of Edinburgh style, with my hands elegantly clasped behind my back. And they still waved.

We were down to one explanation.; Before accepting it, we examined our experiences for supporting evidence. And we found lots of it.

We began with kindness.; It started with our next door neighbours to be, who initiated a blog on the day to day drama of the construction of our new house. "Congratulations", it began; "you are now the proud owners of a 6 foot hole in the ground. And you're providing our winter entertainment".

The people who worked on our house were unfailingly polite and helpful - even putting us up when our project fell behind schedule. And as we moved in, we were met with gifts of food, plants, invitations for tea and unprompted lawn maintenance. Our landscaper's wife heard we were having company and had struck out at the roadside pie stand, so sent her husband down the next morning with two fresh raspberry pies.

And then we added community spirit.; The main street, the Loyalist Parkway, has been closed on several occasions for various "a-thons", as well as "Harvestin' the County" (a very long table sit down dinner for 1,000 to celebrate local food); a Canada Day street dance featuring the goofy Eddie and the Stingrays; and most recently, Wellington's famous; Pumpkinfest.

The Canada Day fireworks display was memorable.; I mentioned to a volunteer that the village must have a guardian angel.; Chagrined, he informed me that the funds to pay for it were raised the old fashioned way, penny by penny.

Pumpkinfest features, of course, a parade, a weighoff, a pie baking and a carving contest, but also a heavyweight toe to toe bout between the Hillier Women's Insitute Apple Dumplings (order in advance for 10 or more) and the United Church Women's Chicken and Biscuits. The vigilant consumer is compelled to experience both.

There is also fanatical loyalty to the local hockey team, the Junior A Wellington Dukes.; Most Friday nights, the "Dukedome" is filled to capacity - which by analogy is like rounding up about 250,000 people for every Leafs game.; And woe betide any Wellington resident who does not have a Dukes tattoo on the gluteus maximus.

Thanks to the great foresight of Canada Post, there is no home delivery of mail. So everyone in the village shares the same postal code ("Keep On Kissing, Three Lips Only"), and meets up at the post office to pick up their mail. And you can have access to your box 364 nights a year - just not on Halloween.

I'm not trying to put on my rose coloured glasses here.; Wellington shares many problems of big urban centres. For example, it has an entry sign announcing "Wellington: the coolest spot when the weather's hot".; Some gang of hoodlums has brazenly removed the "s" from the beginning of a word.; Municipal officials obviously live in fear for their safety, because they haven't repainted it for years.; And the traffic tie ups can be horrendous: when a big truck is backing into the Midtown Meats parking lot, you sometimes have eight, maybe 10 cars waiting for the complex manoeuvre to finish.

The sole remaining explanation fit like a glove with all this supporting evidence.; The waving is a gesture of neighbourliness. People are friendly.; They stop and say hello.; They pull out the book; you have reserved the moment you walk in the door of the library, or ask how the house construction is going when you purchase something from their store for the first time and before you have been introduced.

That quality may sound banal, but I hope the people of Wellington; realize how valuable it is.; They could earn a decent wage in a large urban centre as paid icebreakers, just riding the buses and elevators making contact with the people furiously staring into empty space, avoiding interaction at all costs.

But I'd be much happier if they just stayed in Wellington, where I plan to be for a long time, doing my bit to wave to newcomers, however funny they walk.

Click here for all comments by David Simmonds.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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