What message does your wave send?


 By Stephanie Keltner

Have you ever noticed how people wave hello, as they drive by in their car, or perhaps walk past on the opposite side of the street? It can often be quite entertaining, if you stop to think about it. 

It struck me this morning, while dropping my kids off at school. There was a fellow walking out of the school. I gave him my signature open hand, fingers splayed, two shake wave, probably followed by the closed mouth “I don’t really know you, but I’m a friendly person” smile. Now it is the response to this gesture that struck me. I don’t know if it would have registered at any other time of the day, maybe it was the fact that I was suffering from the usual “didn’t get a sip of coffee before I was harassed out the door by my children”.  Or it could have been the fact that I never look in the mirror before going out the door, and that my ever fashionable hairstyle was glued to my skull in the back, as if hit by a frying pan, and the front may have looked like I just hit a glass door and was standing on end in a four inch salute. Anyway, my friendliness was greeted with a brief look of terror and one of those up swinging, one fingered, I may be shaking out a dishrag waves. My first thought was, “What kind of limp noodle wave is that?!”  Nevertheless, it was an attempt at a wave.
As I drove home, I began to lament about the different waves given by people in the community. Personally, my all time favorite is open hand full charge at the windshield wave. It is given with such enthusiasm, that the glass may indeed shatter if the fellows arm was but two inches longer. 
I’ve also noticed that some are gripping the steering wheel so tightly that all they can manage is a split second raise of the pointer finger, as if more fingers or longer hang time would indeed send them careening off into the bushes ending in a fiery inferno of death and mayhem.
There is one fellow who greets me in the classic toddler style bye-bye. This cracks me up every time, because he is a work hardened laborer of the land, and I would never have predicted this wave from him. 
Some prefer the nod, instead of any hand gestures at all. It is more of an acknowledgment of presence, but a greeting all the same.
There is also the “I’m washing the inside of my windshield” wave. 
The wave and point “here’s looking at you kid”, which leaves me wondering if it was followed by a clickity click of the tongue. 
There is a big sign outside Broadus, Montana that says “Welcome to Waving Broadus”. I travel through this town at least 5 or 6 times a year, and have yet to inspire a wave. Now if you travel east, to Hebron, North Dakota, you will meet the waving-est bunch of people you ever wanted to see. In fact, you might as well keep your hand up waving through the whole town. 
One of the finest forms of entertainment is to wave at someone in a larger town. They will break their neck trying to figure out who you are and what the hell you are doing.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what kind of “waver” you are. It is indeed, the thought that counts. It means hello, a greeting and acknowledgement of another person. It’s a nice thing to do and makes everyone’s day a little brighter.

Published May 12, 2010

Article Type: 
Guest Opinion

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