I hadn’t given it much thought until a recent trip we took to Iowa. Seems like the minute we crossed the border into the Hawkeye State, it began – the wave. I’m not talking about water waves. I mean the friendly gesture one driver offers to an oncoming vehicle. (Certainly not to be confused with the one-finger salute that sometimes comes from a disgruntled driver.) This is the “Hello! We’re both on this road together and I think I’ll greet you” wave.
A variety of waves
What’s so interesting about a wave of greeting? To me, it’s the wide variety of wave variations we’ve seen on the road. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The “other” one-finger wave: With both hands remaining on the steering wheel, one index finger is raised. This is sometimes accompanied with a head nod.
- The two-finger salute: Similar to the previous wave, only with the index and second finger raised while other fingers continue to grip the steering wheel.
- The chin nod: A variation of the wave that uses the chin instead of the hand. Either a quick snap downward or a quick lift of the chin acknowledging oncoming drivers.
- The palm: The entire right hand lifts just off the steering wheel to show your palm to oncoming drivers.
- Courtesy wave: The left hand holds the wheel. The elevated, vertical right hand flaps back and forth, waving another car ahead of you.
- Thank you wave: Right hand raises near the rearview mirror to thank the driver behind you for allowing you to join the flow of traffic.
- Then there’s the “touch index finger to cap bill” salute-type wave and the “out-the-window left-hand wave” reserved exclusively for very good friends. The “gotcha’ wave” is a wave given to someone you don’t know. Accompanied by a friendly grin, this excited, whole hand wave will have the other driver wondering just who waved at them.
Is it a rural phenomenon?
Only rural areas seem to have mastered the art of waving. To be fair, congested city driving is not very conducive to friendly waves, except occasionally the courtesy wave. Interstate waving will never catch on, seeing as oncoming drivers aren’t easily visible and waving at high speed probably isn’t the best idea anyway.
Motorcyclists have their own special wave. The left hand held low, two-finger wave allows the motorcycle driver to keep his right hand on the throttle. Well, and also to keep steering.
Waves are interesting. Did you ever notice that truckers wave to other truckers, but rarely will a trucker wave to a car driver? Car drivers wave to other car drivers, but not to motorcyclists. Motorcyclists wave to one another, but do not wave to trucks or cars. Hmm. Interesting … Perhaps this unusual phenomenon would qualify for an in-depth government-funded study. I think it holds just as much merit as other studies funded by our taxes, don’t you?
Kids and waving
And then there are children. Everyone waves to children, especially if the kids wave first. Truckers will sometimes even sound their air horns, as well. I suppose we all wave at children because they’re cute, but more likely we remember back to the times we endured endless trips in the back seat, having to “hold it” for just a few more miles until parents found a “suitable” restroom.
The Nissan Leaf wave
Did you know that Nissan tried to invent a designated wave for its Leaf hybrid owners? Back in 2011, Nissan asked drivers to send in suggestions for a special wave to be used exclusively by Leaf owners to other Leaf owners. I’m not sure a winner wave was ever named, but I don’t own a Leaf hybrid, so maybe I’m wrong.
Can waving increase joy?
Is it ever okay not to wave? Well, if someone waves at you it’s polite to wave back. If you don’t, you risk being labeled “rude” or “mean” or (if you’re a bit more mature in age) a “grumpy old curmudgeon.”
So, wave! Greet your fellow travelers with a smile and enjoy your journey even more!