WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

February 17, 2014

WordFood on the Road

The SUV was pulling onto the main road heading north from the parking lot just to my right, just after I’d already done the same thing, just to his south. No traffic was coming, so I paused, gave him a quick beep, and waited until he finished pulling out onto the road and got going. Then he did something that surprised the heck out of me.

He waved in thanks.

Now that’s surprising only because I haven’t seen anyone do that in a long time. I try to make a habit out of traffic courtesies and by all means to acknowledge them with a wave. We’ve all seen the opposite end of the spectrum as road manners have devolved. I’ve gotten the one-finger salute even when I’ve tried to be polite. What delighted me was to get waved at myself. Made my tummy warm. And got me thinking about how we use WordFood- both nutritious and toxic- on the road.

Those of us who’ve lived in the country, who’ve gotten to know our neighbors, are all familiar with the waves or the simple gestures we use when we pass by those we know: familiar vehicles, faces, folks in the yard planting flowers. In some remote areas there’s a shared sign, like a single forefinger raise that everyone in a valley uses to say “Howdy.” This connects us, reminds us that we’re part of a neighborhood. I’m part of a generation who also used to raise a hand to firemen and policemen- and still do- because that’s how my folks raised me.  Mountain or farm, desert or forest, the hand on the wheel has a way of including you in the “family.”

At some point when getting somewhere fast, and certainly faster than the other guy became paramount, our ability to be courteous took a detour and a variety of other, less friendly gestures came into vogue. Language added spice and soon we were seeing road rage and guns and deaths, all of which have subsided because now we have smart phones and texting and televisions in our cars in addition to putting on makeup, shaving, eating, and all the other things we do instead of drive. Not only are many of us not looking at each other, we’re not driving either.

In other countries, we communicate by headlights, in some ways similar to what we do in the US. However there are some startling differences. Whereas in the US if someone coming at you flashes you, it could be a warning about a speed trap or an accident. In a country such as Vietnam, where I just spent a month, it could be something entirely different. They might be telling you that they are about to enter your lane, head on. So move over. I’m not making this up. You then have to flash your lights, and beep your horn, which the oncoming driver is doing as well, and both of you end up making way for each other by going off the road.

Now you must understand that there’s a good reason for this. Most roads in Vietnam are too narrow for two vehicles. So coming at each other head on around corners is common. Another factor to add to the fun are the millions upon millions of motorcycles that everyone drives, far more than cars. Cars and motorbikes are always trying to pass each other around blind corners in the mountains, especially if there are big slow trucks . This is happening both uphill and downhill.

That’s not all. Add to this the men and women who are walking their water buffalo and cattle on the road, the way they’ve done for millenia, long before there was a road there. They see no reason to move over. Then  there are the people walking with their carts, kids, grandmothers and crates for market, the way they’ve done for milennnia. They don’t see any reason to move over. Add to this all the cyclists, many of which are carrying massive loads so big the rider can barely see. This proliferation on the side of the road forces vehicle traffic into the middle of the road, so all the cars and semis end up playing chicken on the middle line. They flash their lights, beep their horns, and  hundreds of motorcycles weave in and out of the maelstrom. Yet it all seems to work.

They’re watching where they’re going, and watching out for each other.

WordFood is as much about the little courtesies that require no words- but are just as eloquent: “please, you first” for example, and the wonderfully unexpected kind wave given in return. These things bring us into community. Remind us that we care about each other- on the road as well as anywhere else. It says: ” I’m looking out for you. You matter.”

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