In Texas, we like to wave at you as we drive by. We might not know who you are, but we’re going to give you a wave because you might know us and then show up to church on Sunday in a pout because we didn’t wave back at you when you waved first.
I live in a small town in Central Texas. I have come close to getting carpal tunnel syndrome because of all the waving I do as I drive.
I don’t know 90 percent of the folks I’m waving at, but once in a while, I’ll see someone I do know.
My neighbor, Cappy Eads, gets most of my waves. You might not know him but if you follow the television show CSI, then you’ve seen his son, George, at work in Hollywood dusting dead folks for fingerprints. So Cappy gets lots and lots of waves from me. He probably thinks I’m insane, but one day all that hard work will pay off and I’ll get to wave at George. Hope springs eternal anyway and George is living proof that Texas truly is “God’s Country.”
Waving lets people know we see them. People like to walk for exercise in my neighborhood and I wave to let them know I see them and I’m not gonna hit them. They wave back for a variety reasons. Sometimes it’s to say hello. Other times it’s to say “Thanks for not plowing me down with your car.” You know, neighborly stuff.
Waving also is our way of saying “thank you” for just about anything. If you let us cut ahead of you in traffic, we Texans will shoot you a wave, so long as you don’t shoot back. Road rage seems to be prevalent no matter where you go. This is unfortunate. It seems like everybody likes to get mad at everyone else for the smallest of infractions. That wave isn’t seen in our bigger cities anymore because it will get you shot on occasion.
And speaking of bad behavior, that wave also might be our own version of the single-finger salute except we’re going to make it both genteel and complex by giving you “all the birds.” I call it a military-encrypted “bird” and the onus is on the other driver to figure out which one is correct. It’s kind of like a sign-language version of “bless your heart” which, when used at the beginning of a statement, makes everything you are about to say all right, including questioning the legitimacy of another’s parentage.
“I know that ol’ boy’s mean. Bless his heart, his father was a bachelor all of his life,” one might say.
Gettin’ the picture here?
Men and women wave differently. Women will take a hand off the steering wheel and give you a complete, five-fingered, open-palm wave that you’d have to be blind to miss. Men, however, barely raise more than a few fingers off the wheel. Look close or you’ll miss it. It’s all about the “cool” for men when it comes to waving and driving. If you’re a man, don’t show too much excitement or the other driver will think you’re signaling approaching danger and likely drive into a ditch. If you mis-deliver a signal, you’ll hear about it the following Sunday in church. And so will everyone else in the congregation.
If you happen to see a Texas driver raise his hand, take a good long look. It’s probably a friendly wave, whether he’s waving his whole hand or just sticking up about four fingers off the top of the steering wheel in a laid-back, James Dean cool kind of way. More than likely, no harm’s meant at all. It’s just a little bit of Texas-friendly driving sign language letting you know we see you and we’re wishing you a nice day.
First printed in the Fort Hood Sentinel, 2008.