Doing the Wave

Waving Man

When we first moved to our Little House and began taking routine trips into town, we noticed something pretty odd to a life long city dweller: People waved at us whether they knew us or not (and we didn’t know many people here).

At first I thought these were Dale’s new co-workers, but he didn’t know most of them either.

Not noticing this until after we moved might seem strange, given we had owned our house here for four years prior, but when we came here for weekends and vacations from the city, we did all of our shopping before leaving home. We were here to rest and decompress and didn’t want to spend the time we had driving to and from town.

Even if we were going to town for something, we probably were still in the city mindset focusing on the destination rather than the journey, just wanting to get there and back.

Besides, if you wave at someone in the city you don’t know, you’re pretty much looked upon with suspicion, even in a friendly Midwestern city such as KC.

On our leisurely trips into town after we moved, we also noticed that people usually have their own “signature wave,” something they do to every car passing.

There’s the 1-finger wave (no, not that finger), where the person usually just raises his index finger from the steering wheel as you pass by. We’ve come to believe these people want to be friendly, but don’t want to put a whole lot of energy into it.

The 4-fingered wave where the driver of a passing car exerts a little more energy lifting four fingers off of the steering wheel. This is sometimes accompanied by a smile and a nod of the head.

Or they might do the tip of the hat thing or head thing, where they actually see you coming in advance and give a little salute, tip their hat or nod their head as we’re passing

I told Dale when we first moved here we couldn’t be labeled as “flatlanders,” or “city folk,” we needed to develop our own friendly waves.

He’s more of a nodding of the head type and I’m a 4-finger waver.

I’ve noticed on the last few trips into town that fewer people seem to be doing the wave as when we first moved here, making me think that the trials and worries of the outside world and economy has come home. People are simply too deep in thought to even do the 1-finger wave and like people from the city, are focusing on the destination more than the beauty of the ride.

I hope as things improve though, that our neighbors get back to focusing on the beauty of the drive.

After all, they say the journey is what it’s all about.

Are there any quirky things you’ve noticed about your surroundings or the people?

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26 Responses

  1. MarthaandMe says:

    It seems to be a generational thing in my area. The older folks tend to wave. It always catches me – do I know that person?

  2. Frugal Kiwi says:

    The rural Kiwi wave is more of a two finger wave- yes, THOSE two fingers, but not in the V configuration with an upward thrust.

  3. We have a special name for this kind of waving. I would totally tell you, but I plan to use it as the title of my novel. :o) It was Tom’s idea, actually, but it’s both brilliant and funny.

  4. We’re more apt to get a wave from an older (over 60)
    person around my neighborhood. When it happens we’ll ask each other, “Do you know that person?” Then I’ll remark, “That was nice.”

  5. Marie says:

    I find waves are contagious….I just keep passing them on and they often come right back to you!

    Now that we live in an RV full-time my husband is waving away too.


  6. Kathleen Winn says:

    We live in a very friendly neighborhood, Prairie Village KS, just on the other side of the state line from Kansas City. I think in cities, people often do create their own small town community. I know our neighbors well and we look out for each other. We have a couple of elderly folks nearby and David shovels their drives and sidewalks when it snows. I often open the front door in the morning and find that some early morning walker has deposited the newspaper at my front door. Once, we went out of town for a couple of weeks. I had put a stop on our mail, but for some reason the post office kept delivering. When our mailbox reached the overflowing point, a neighbor noticed and picked it up for us for the remainder of our trip. We all wave to each in passing too.

    I grew up spending a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm as a kid, where I was first exposed to the country custom of giving a wave to any fellow traveler on the road. Now, we own land in the country and one of the things I love about going there is the way that people give a friendly wave even if they don’t know you. However, I too have noticed that in the ten years we’ve owned the land, the waving has diminished somewhat. I hope the custom doesn’t die away entirely!

  7. Full Size says:

    If I am walking past someone, I usually just give them the downward head nod. If it is someone I know, but not real well, I give them the upward head nod. When it comes to waves I have a whole arsenal I choose from.

  8. Cindyt says:

    Mo’s response had me LOL and smiling! for sure living in the country…or just driving out there I note ‘the’ waves. I always love it driving out of Austin to the Hill Country to my daughters place. I note that while out on the paved road the waves are there but not as many and they are more of an aknowledging wave…but once turning off onto the Rock,Dirt, gully washed out, low water crossing, bone shattering if you go more than 10 miles an hour…the waves are more personal and friendly as if everyone is best friends even if you don’t know them. I am sure if stopped on this last 2 mile journey any passing car or more likely truck would stop to offer assistance! It seems to me the faster you go the more impersonal we are to each other. Maybe it is time to Slooow down smell the flowers, Smile and Wave to our neighbors where ever we are! 🙂 Cindyt

    • I think that would make the world a nicer place!

      • Bj says:

        Ah, is that another fellow Texan I spy on this blog! LOL…howdy neighbor! I am up in Big Spring!

        Yes, I am a waver, but I agree it seems to happen more frequently off the beaten path.

        Years ago, when I still drove semi’s, my oldest boy (then 17, now 33) and I conducted an informal survey. Truckers will wave too, though most of us sit too low to notice….so my son and I waved at every car/pu/semi that we passed, or that passed us during our 12 hour journey. We noticed that the ones from smaller states (Rhode Island, Connecticut, etc) waved less frequently, than cars with plates from Oklahoma or Missouri..and of course, since my truck wore Texas plates, every car with Texas plates waved, and made sure we saw them wave. ( We were crossing I90 in Montana-who knows why but lots of Texas plates were up there too!)
        The consensus was that states with larger rural areas were more apt to wave at us, then states with higher proportions of big cities. Wonder, if it is still true? Now that I am a teacher, no longer driving the big rigs, I may try that survey this summer while I am roaming the country. If ya see me, ya’ll better wave!

        • Cindyt says:

          Yep We Be Texan Through and through!! LOL! and a Big Texas Wave to you BJ. and my little pekingese puppy boys send you a tail wag too!
          //*x*\\ //*x*\\
          Jake n Jared

  9. Alexandra says:

    Sorry to hear people have stopped waving in your town!

    This post made me smile because my husband, from Sweden, always waves at strangers, while I don’t, because I spent 25 years in France, and before that called Manhattan and DC home, three places where no one waves.

    • I might be wrong, but I think not waving is more indicative of any American city. Kansas City and the Midwest in general, is a friendlier place than some larger cities, but you still don’t wave at one another. Actually, my first paid published essay was on this very topic. I’ll have to repost it here sometime!

  10. V Schoenwald says:

    Before I became more home bound from elderly parent care and now disabled husband care, when I would take day trips to get hand spun wool at the western end the state, everyone would wave whether you were from the area or not. The area where you would drive would be upon the very old Oregon Trail route, on Hwy 26. Now the neighborhood where I live now is a total foreign land, the “neighbors are mostly druggies and you don’t even want to wave, talk or make eye contact.
    One day, I was out in front of the house, planting transplants, and I heard a car start up that didn’t sound like it was from the neighborhood, as the car passed my house, a very stoned girl yelled profanities at me, and all I was doing was planting plants! So, I usually do not talk to anyone here at all. I have house neighbors who own homes across the street and garden, and I talk to her, but that is about it.
    Pretty sad and some what un-nerving to live here. in my neighborhood.

  11. Susan says:

    I totally agree that you are closer to your neighbors when you live out in the country. We have been in this house 15 years 🙁 and other than a chat over the fence once in awhile there is no contact. No one invites you over. I knew more of my neighbors in Gloucester and we did the different waves as Mo discribed. When we took a trip up to East Texas this past summer we were going thru Troup and got those waves…miss that.

  12. That’s funny, Mo, I like your description of your signature waves! 🙂
    I think you’re right. We definitely know more of our “neighbors” (and this could describe people 2 miles up or down the road, 3 miles around the cove or more than 7 miles away on the other side of the next mountain)here than we did in the city. In the burgs, we lived right next to some people for more than 17 years and never shared a meal with them! But this also describes how our small township changed when it was eaten up (annexed) by the city. When we were kids, everyone knew each other and as kids, ran through our neighbors houses regularly.

  13. Mo says:

    Our valley is full of wavers. If you don’t wave you’ll likely be under suspicion and for sure ‘not from around here.’ Its remote enough that even if you don’t like each other, their still happy to see ya. Its even considered impolite not to stop by and introduce yourself. I met almost all of my neighbors in the first month I owned it. Everyone is on the lookout for everyone.

    Based on my life experience I’ve developed this hypothesis, the farther you live from your neighbors, the more likely you are to know them. Example: When I lived in an apartment I was within rock throwing distance of dozens of families. I knew a couple of them. When I moved to the ‘burbs’ I knew almost everyone within a football field of me. In a semi-rural community I know most folks by name and many are friends within a mile of home. In our remote rural location I know most everyone, made friends with almost all of them, had meals or a beverage with a lot of them, have their phone numbers and/or email address…

    My wave depends on the distance. My drive-by close is full hand angled away, my drive-by far I’ll add a bit of a wrist chopping motion, my beyond hollering distance salute is a fully extended arm held high,palm out, fingers spread out like a turkey fan with a single wave across the top…