It is easier to get people in neighboring automobiles to return a smile on local roads than on the interstate.
I've done the research. All scientific and whatnot. Charts, graphs, and carefully created timelines in full living color bound neatly in a notebook await your perusal should you doubt my methodology.
I'll smile at anyone. Usually because I feel like smiling but sometimes to get myself back to that place where I feel like smiling.
It all starts with eye contact. While sitting at a local red light or ignoring the speed limit while cruising down the freeway; smiles can be traded during any and all phases of stop-and-go or stomp-and-go road travel. Without eye contact, however, there can be no returned smile. It's rather like that whole hearing the sound-of-a-falling-tree-in-the-forest thing.
My smile got a workout on the highway this weekend on our way home. I was already in the place where I felt like smiling so it was practically effortless. I smiled at innumerable unknown faces, a variety of ages, colors and sizes driving or riding in a plethora of vehicle types, colors and sizes. Not quite a grinning idiot was I, but close.
Of all the folks I smiled at on the interstate, I only got acknowledgement from one. This fellow was riding in the open bed of a beat-up white work truck. On I-95. Doing about 70. He sat, his back to the cab, hunched in a lawn chair. Somehow I caught his eye as we passed him. In that brief moment I flashed him one of my most sparkling smiles. In return I received an acknowledging lift of his chin. His wispy long hair whipped wildly across his face and he quickly dropped his chin back to his chest.
Not long ago while stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Lockheed Boulevard and Richmond Highway, the deep bass and rap beat emanating from the car in the lane to my right caught my attention. It was a beat-up Chevy Nova occupied by a quartet of young black men. The fellow in the front passenger seat was bopping his head rhythmically to the music. A white bandana was tied around his head, a lit cigarette dangled from his lips.
He looked at me looking at him, and I smiled. He rewarded me with an open grin, lots of teeth and good humor.
"So what?" you may think.
So go smile at a stranger.
I highly recommend it.