Team Fun HQ is located in a very leafy suburb in Auckland. It has a very natural feel, with greenery in abundance everywhere you look. Like the rest of New Zealand, it is also a very friendly place. People greet each other in the street, and it doesn’t take long to form friendships (albeit very superficial ones).
So how is it then, that I felt nothing but toe curling embarrassment, when someone who I have never met waved at me from their car?
Perhaps I ought to give you a bit of back ground. You see, a couple of years ago, I was introduced to an amazing game/social experiment called “Sweet or Sour”. This isn’t something I would recommend to the shy or retiring, it is however great fun. The idea is that whenever a car passes you, you wave to those in it. If they wave back they are sweet, and if not, you’ve guessed it, they are sour.
About a month ago, when a full complement of Team Funsters were out having a walk, in one of Auckland’s beautiful parks, I decided that we should give it a go. I have to say that I wasn’t sure that this would go down terribly well, as while Mrs L. is many things, extroverted definitely isn’t one of them. She just rolled her eyes though and let me and the kids carry on.
I have to say, growing up in the UK where people aren’t always terribly friendly hadn’t left me in the most optimistic frame of mind in this endeavour, but while we were waving and shouting “Hello” at the tops or our voices to random strangers, an amazing thing happened. Of the forty or fifty cars we waved at only one driver didn’t wave back. Fraboo, especially seemed to enjoy herself. A game like this must be like seventh heaven for someone as friendly and cheerful as her, but truth be told we all had a great deal of fun including Mrs L. who didn’t want to miss out on the merriment.
A few weeks later, and I arrived home to find Mrs L. in a mood quite some considerable way from good. She’d been trying to make dinner but with little success, in large part due to Boy-Boy hanging off of her leg and insisting a very particular menu, and NOW!!! Given his eating habits it was almost inevitable that Boy-Boy would have a couple of bites of his dinner (if we were really lucky) and then decide that he didn’t like it.
In the interests of keeping a semblance of calm at home, I decided (or was told, I can’t remember which), to take him out for a walk. We toddled off in the direction of the Dairy (corner shop/store, to those reading from outside of New Zealand).
We got about 50 metres down the road, when I heard an approaching car. Boy-Boy did too and turned around to watch it coming. He was clearly excited about it and started shouting “Look Dad, a black car!” and then began frantically waving.
At this point, I should point out that one of the features of Boy-Boy’s particular brand of autism, is that he likes to recreate situations. For example, now, whenever we drive under a bridge, he tells us to “Watch out for the bridge!” and as we pass under it he shouts “DUUUUUCCKKK!” and we all duck. This stems from a trip to the airport we once took when I told him that we should duck, going under one bridge. We now have to bow our heads going under every single overpass. This is partly why we don’t go on long car journeys.
The same seems to have taken place with “Sweet or Sour”. He now associates going for a walk with me, with waving at every car in the hope of getting a response, and I am only too happy to play along. We got a number of people waving back at us, and several people beeping their horns too, which only encouraged Boy-Boy (and let’s be honest me too).
It took me a little while to notice, that as some of the people were returning our waves, they seemed to have a look of pity on their faces, which curiously, coincided with us walking past parked cars. Then it struck me. As Boy-Boy is only four and of rather short stature, every time we walk behind an obstruction, the occupants of those vehicles which pass us, will not be able to see him. They may, not unreasonably, think that just I, a fully grown man with questionable taste in clothing, am manically waving at them. It would be fair for them to conclude, that perhaps a new idiot has moved into the village.
When I was growing up in a sleepy seaside town, it seemed that the place was just crawling with local “characters”. I very much doubt that my younger self would ever have dreamt that I would become one of them.
So if you are driving and you see a rather colourfully dressed individual, happily waving at you, wave back at them. It might be me, or if not you might just make someone’s day. In either case, you’ll definitely be sweet.