With life growing more complicated at an accelerated pace, it is no wonder that even
the simple act of waving now requires explanation.
The youngest daughter and I are driving on a country road when a pick-up truck
approaches. The driver waves and I wave back. It is classic rural America; a wave,
the blur of a passing vehicle and a trail of dust.
""Does Dad know about this?" my passenger asks.
"About you flirting? About you waving at strange men?"
"Everybody waves in the country," I say.
"I can't believe the hypocrisy," she says. "You are the one who told me when
truckers wave at me on the Interstate while I'm driving home from college, that I am
not to wave, but to look straight ahead and ignore them."
"That's exactly right."
"So you're saying I shouldn't wave at truck drivers on a densely crowded Interstate,
but it's fine to wave at a guy in a truck on a desolate, deserted country road."
"You're mixing the country wave with the city wave," I explain. "The country wave is
innocent. On back roads, a wave is pure John Deere, a gesture of friendliness tinged
with a reminder that somebody saw you. A country wave is the two-finger lift from
the top of the steering wheel accompanied by a slight nod."
"Maybe I should try it out on the next car."
"You can't, the passenger never waves. It's in the rules of waving. But the great
thing is, the driver waves at everybody out here. There's no pressure of recognizing
the vehicle or the driver in time, you just wave indiscriminately."
"Do you hear yourself?" she says. "You are advocating waving indiscriminately?"
And this is why children should never be allowed to quote their parents.
Waving is one of the last great hallmarks of friendliness that we can all still
agree on (well, at least most of us).
It can even be considered a milestone. Friends with a new baby came back to the
front door three times because they thought we missed seeing the baby wave goodbye.
How nice that we can still get excited over something as simple as flapping an arm.
Recently, there have been anemic efforts to replace the wave with the double thumbs
up, but it will never catch on. The thumbs up lacks the passion and nuances of the
There is the raised arm and shaking hand wave that says, Excited, very glad to see
you. There is the fingers together, hand rocking back and forth wave that speaks of
a slight self-consciousness, but still glad to see you.
There is the slow-motion wave that continues until your loved one is out of sight,
and then there is the finger flap that looks like a hand talking.
Of course, the worst faux pas, the one that completely deflates this gesture of
friendliness, is waving at someone and them not waving back.
I'm sure I have been taken for a snob on occasion, when the truth is, I was simply
slow. Somebody waves, but they have already passed and are nearly out of sight when
it dawns on you who they are and you finally raise your hand to wave back.
Oh well. Better to have waved and been late than never to have waved at all.