A wave can go a long way

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I miss Leroy.
For a couple of years, usually in the mornings, Leroy Hanes stood outside Carpet Deals & More near a utility pole on Lincolnton Road and waved to the people in passing cars.
I drove by Leroy on my way to work.
On winter days such as these, he wore a ballcap and a warm jacket. You often saw him in profile as he waved, and he was round in the middle, making him look almost jolly.
In 2006, the Post’s Susan Shinn wrote about Leroy and his penchant for waving and smiling at passing motorists, so he was a bit famous.
People looked forward to getting their wave from Leroy and returning the favor.
Something about that small act restored a person’s faith in mankind, at least until the next morning.
A wave from Leroy was something personal in an impersonal world, something that cracked through a car’s closed windows, a cell phone conversation or morning personalities on the radio
I noticed in the Charlotte Observer a couple weekends ago that Cornelius also has a waver ó “The Waving Man,” the newspaper called him.
The Waving Man apparently has the same effect on people that Leroy did. A stranger out there by the side of the road waving for no particular reason just makes people feel better.
It got me to thinking. Are cities missing the boat here?
Municipalities invest tens of thousands of dollars on welcome signs and improving their “gateway” entrances, trying to give visitors the impression they’re driving into a special place, a place different from other run-of-the mill towns.
They also hire consultants, who devise marketing and branding for communities.
Salisbury did this recently and, after a sometimes painful process, came up with a handsome logo that invites people to “Discover What’s Inside.”
Why wouldn’t a city save all this money by posting volunteers at strategic spots and having them wave to people coming and going?
If we did this in Salisbury, word eventually would spread about our unusually friendly town, where the women are strong; the men, good-looking; the children, above average; and the populace as a whole likes to stand on the street and wave.
More people would be driving here than those who travel to see the Christmas lights in McAdenville.
Think of the tourism and feel-good publicity. The city could even make its involuntary annexations more palatable. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a city that gives out free, friendly waves every day?
It would take organization, of course. The need would arise for a hard-core group of volunteers ó a Wavers Guild, if you will. I have the feeling our city would put the Wavers in some kind of uniform, too, though I hope it would resist Salisbury steak suits.
I fear, however, that the time would come when the volunteer Wavers would waver in their enthusiasm. To keep the program going, Salisbury would make them city employees with health care and paid vacations.
I also cringe to think what would happen if a Salisbury Waver became disgruntled one day and started saluting the passing motorists with a certain finger extended. Or even worse ó well, you can imagine.
It’s a bad idea.
The beauty of Leroy was that he waved because he wanted to, plain and simple. People knew and appreciated him for that.
I hear Leroy, who must be 57 or 58 now, has moved to a care facility where he is happy and content to be doing other things.
I’ve considered taking his place on Lincolnton Road. My kingdom for a steak suit.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.