Code of Salutations


A poem by the poet and author, Christopher Morley.

In his poem Tit for Tat, Christopher Morley describes what I find to be a classic relationship in present day social interactions. Socially, we tend to routinely pass by and visit the same places over and over again coming in contact with the same individuals. This can be seen at all ages, both students and adults create routines wether it be to get to work/school or at school/work. As a being that participates in this activity I’m sure that you have continuously cross paths with individuals whose routines are similar to yours.  For instance, every morning on my way to high school I used to pass by the same stoplight with the same officer controlling traffic.  At first, we weren’t familiar to each other but as a routine was established not a morning went by where we didn’t exchange a friendly smile and acknowledging nod. We both know each other as the officer who controls traffic and the girl in a white Honda-Fit.

A meme of the act of saluting people who we have recently met or come in contact with.

David Lepoutre, a professor in sociology, in his book Uncivil Engagement and Unruly Politics: Disruptive Interventions of Urban Youth describes this occurrence as a code of salutations. He explains that individuals base their social relations on a shared environment in which they physically meet. These individuals maintain a level of acquaintance within their shared environments by regularly greetings each other on the streets, even if individuals do not know each other’s names or origination.  I find extraordinarily curious how life puts us in this shared environment where when we come into physical contact with others we unconsciously follow a “code” that society has created. Morley’s poem Tit for Tat exemplifies Lepoutre’s code of salutations perfectly: the poem tells a story of an individual who often passes by a tree and as a society has taught us to do politely salutes the tree and the tree salutes him in return. In the second stanza of the poem the individual feels shame for not knowing the name of the tree that he so often salutes however, he then realizes that said tree probably doesn’t know his name either and he should feel no shame. I feel like I can relate this to my previous example, I have no idea what the name of the police officer that I saw five out seven days a week is but we still saluted each other every morning. Most people do not question this relationship in their shared environments, should we? Should I know the name of the crossing guard or the individual in Morley’s poem the name of the tree? I think that we should, this code of salutations merely creates bases for relationships in our shared environments that we should further pursue and explore. Without pursuing these relationships we create a web of very loose social interactions that contribute to the sense of impersonality in todays society. 

Works Cited

Morley, Christopher. Hide and Seek. George H. Doran Company, 1920.

Kaulingfreks, Femke. Uncivil Engagement and Unruly Politics: Disruptive Interventions of Urban Youth. Springer, 2016.