If you look at a tourist guide for 'unmissable attractions' on the island of Bermuda, chances are, that alongside recommendations for beaches and lounge bars, you will find a mention of Johnny Barnes. The 88 year old retired bus driver, is now Bermuda's self-appointed ambassador of good cheer. Every morning, he makes his way to a busy traffic intersection at 4 am, and spends the next six hours waving and blowing kisses at people who drive past, greeting them with loud cheers of 'Good morning' 'I love you' and 'God Bless you'. A touchingly simple routine that has gone on for the past 25 years.
In many other countries, Barnes would have probably been scoffed at and requested to vacate his corner. In Bermuda, he is embraced to the point where the radio stations get frantic calls from drivers if he doesn't show up. One such incident prompted a group of local businessmen to build a $70,000 statue of him blowing kisses into the air, 'so that they wouldn't miss him when he was gone.'
As we begin to contemplate what exactly it is that drives an aged man to do something so selfless and whimsical every single day, we begin to notice other similar men, pocketed away in the corners of the world. In Devon, England, a bearded man has spent the last few years waving to passing highway traffic, amassing a large fan following in the process. In Lisbon, João Manuel Serra, fondly known as 'Senhor do Adeus' worked the happiness beat, standing at different intersections and waving goodbye to all the motorists that passed him, until he died in 2010. His last goodbye was deeply touching, with hundreds of people gathering under his window to wave him on to the afterlife.
If this is some kind of organised conspiracy, it's the most beautiful one I've heard of.
Image: GC Communication via Creative Commons
Video: A charming documentary about Johnny Barnes by Matt Morris Films