"Good morning!"

These two gentle words seem so harmless, so kind, so genuine.

They don't invite any complaints like, say, "How are you?", "How do you do?" or — as dear old Aunt Dottie would ask, in her reliably efficient greeting: "How do?"

"Good morning!" Who ever could find a mean streak in that?

I did.

In The Land Of Hello
A beautiful island in the northeastern, most overlooked area of the Bahamas, Abaco has been the primary spring vacation site of choice for my parents since I was a teen. In economic good times (not now), the parental gravy train would slosh to Abaco and I would be aboard.

Each place leaves an indelible mark on those who call it home. I was raised in Columbus, Ohio. That remains, forever, the home of my
mind and my hands. My intellectual curiosity lives in New York, my soul
in Israel, and my heart is wherever my beloved stands.

But the home of my bare feet and good nature is Abaco. On this place, I have consistently found, everyone says "Good morning" to everyone else. Passing on the street or in the grocery or on the beautiful beach. "Good morning."

Until around noon, when everyone switches to the next daypart. And so on.

A One-Man Orientation Squad
As someone who has been going there — on and off, but mainly on — for 30 years, I'm something of a traditionalist. The Bahamians, of course, are the keeper of the indigenous culture. But, as tourists go, I'm one of the long-timers.

That means that I might be the person who introduces — to a novice, first-time visitor — the idea that This Is A Place Where We All Say "Good Morning" Unlike That Foul, Cold City From Whence You Came.

And I can teach them that lesson in two words, "Good morning." If they haven't been properly oriented by someone else, they are a little surprised. Because people just don't say "Good morning" to imperfect strangers back in the Old Country.

But, as quick learners — after all, the stupid surely can't find their way to Abaco — they prove their new knowledge, looking up and saying, "Good morning."

How Can This Ever Be Ugly?
Here's how.

To say "Good morning," and to receive a "Good morning" in return, the instigator must say "Good morning" early in the passing. That is, I need to say "Good morning," while the approaching person is close enough to hear me, but still far enough away to have time to issue his own "Good morning."

Walking on the beach, that's easy.

But if we are passing on bikes or golf carts, this exchange is more hurried, more urgent.

As a young, somewhat bitter young man, I discovered that, if I wait until it is just a little bit too late, it can be fun to say "Good morning."

Because it leaves the other person in awkward territory. They've been greeted, but haven't had the time to demonstrate their own good breeding and gentle nature in response.

For I had already passed them.

We call this game Competitive Good Morning — and it is most foul. As a nearly fully formed adult, I have forsaken it.

Good morning!