There was one peripheral notable, a prominent Kenilworth character, who did not witness the Lisping Barista saying yes to the Geeky Guy. He was outside, waving at cars, when it happened. If he had seen the miracle, I wonder what he would’ve had to say. I always wonder what he has to say because I’ve never heard him say anything.
This man stood all day, every day, outside the door to the cafe and waved at cars as they drove by. He’s never come in. From a distance, from inside your car, you might think he was a friendly kind of guy or someone who mistook you for someone else he knew better. He couldn’t be waving at you, you would think. Some people wave back. Others drive by in an uncomfortable, unsettled manner. If you were a Kenilworth resident, you would have passed the Waving Man many times; you would say that he just waves because waving is his thing. You would wave back, or not, and never give it another thought. He was just another one of those mysteries you learn to live with when you live in Kenilworth.
A journalist, driving through the town from New York City, came upon the Waving Man and wrote a whole article in the New Yorker, or some such publication, about how much friendlier people are in small towns, using the Waving Man as an example. The townsfolk of Kenilworth knew the journalist couldn’t have actually stopped to talk to the Waving Man, because, if he had, he would’ve said that people in a small towns are no different than they are in a big cities. We have our nuts, too.
Kenilworthians who have walked by and attempted to speak to the Waving Man know that face-to-face contact is a different matter. The Waving Man waves only at cars, never at people. If you walked by, he would look right past you and wave at the car behind you. You might think you were invisible, or not worthy of attention. Having experienced the Waving Man’s slight, you might question whether he was even waving at the people in cars, or the cars themselves. He seemed to prefer cars over people, much as town planners privilege traffic over pedestrians and parking spaces over greenery.
Some townspeople have tried to stop and say Hi, or Good Morning to the Waving Man. The bravest have said, You waved at me before when I was in my car, do I know you? Still others have been known to stick out their hands for a handshake. Invariably, all those people are rewarded with nothing more than a cold shoulder. The waver is all about cars and, if you aren’t a car, he won’t have anything to do with you.
Standing, as he often does, by the door to the Epiphany Cafe, a lot of foot traffic goes by every hour. The morning, when people are on their way to work and picking up a last minute cup of coffee, is especially busy. The waver speaks to none of them, for this is also a busy time for automobile traffic. Many occasions come up when someone is struggling through the door with hands full. The Waving Man could easily open the door for them, but he won’t do it. Nothing will distract him from the business of waving at cars.
The Waving Man has even been known, in his eagerness to wave at cars, to stand in front of the doorway of the Epiphany Cafe, blocking people from getting in or out. This can be especially aggravating when you have your hands full of coffee cups. I once witnessed one harried office worker, laden down with coffee for the whole firm, dressed in high heels and a fancy outfit, push her way through the door, assuming it would open as it always does. She crashed against the Waving Man, trying to catch a Chevy going around the corner. She spilled all the coffee on her dress and swore a blue streak, not fitting for a lady. He seemed oblivious to her yelling, but had a big, hospitable grin for the next sedan.
By the time the Lisping Barista said yes to the Geeky Guy, the sentiment of the people of Kenilworth had fully turned against the Waving Man. They were no longer amused by his friendly antisocial antics. There were mutterings that he should be put away. A good talking to was proposed; a mental hygiene arrest was run up the flagpole; a distant home for the developmentally disabled was floated by. A group of young toughs, sensitive to the opportunities that public opinion affords, had come out of a bar the night before, fueled by countless drafts of beer and righteousness, and decided to teach the Waving Man a lesson. The Waving Man had been putting in extra hours to wave at headlights. He should’ve called it a day. He didn’t seem to learn his lesson, though, he was at his post early the next morning, waving at cars as he always does, looking like a raccoon, with two black eyes. No one in the cafe had any sympathy.
I, for one, did not share their scorn, for I can see the Waving Man in all of us. I have watched, day in and day out, the people of the Epiphany Cafe have brief, perfunctory human interactions and then bend for hours to their machines, more intent on thumbing, pecking, and swiping than greeting, gabbing and granting. They seem to prefer text over voice and the glow of a screen to an actual face. Inside and outside the cafe, I have heard folks express love and concern for humankind, but treat actual people like shit. No, the Waving Man is just like the rest of us, only more so.