Archived Story

Be either a waving fool or a fool waving

Published 10:42am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Column: Tales from Exit 22, by Al Batt

It was a moving man cave.

A hulk of a truck was headed my way.

I always carried a shovel in the box of my truck of the peeling paint. He could have carried a steam shovel in his rig. Pickup trucks are all about individuality and that’s why every guy wants one. Having a truck isn’t all about utility. Not all trucks belong to farmers or artisans. To a farmer, a truck is a second skin, but not every driver has to pull this or haul that. Even accountants drive trucks. I’m guessing they’re not hauling loopholes. A pickup truck is to some men what boots are to cowboys. City slickers drive trucks to keep from looking too slick. Many males with driver’s licenses fall prey to the testosterone-fueled commercials for pickups.

I was so amazed by the size of the beast on wheels that I barely noticed that the driver had waved at me.

I was late returning the greeting. No offense intended. I hoped the other driver checked his rearview mirror and saw my responding wave.

I took comfort in the knowledge that people who raise their hands fastest aren’t always the smartest. Neither are the first to wave always the nicest.

An economy cannot be based on waving, but it’s important to wave to other drivers, particularly on rural roads. It’s a backroad handshake for those behind steering wheels. A way of honoring the passing. It’s law that you must wave on gravel roads.

Some might say that buying a truck is spending too much money to look macho, but if a guy wants to drive a pickup, more power to him. Why not motor along in a truck? If you decide to do so, you might want to consider throwing a bale of hay in the back.

I quit driving a truck after it got down to one use — helping other people move.

Back to my tardy wave. I felt guilty. Missing a wave wounds the spirit.

His wave was a lift of an index finger. A wave isn’t about style. There are no judges. A wave is the most democratic of gestures. It doesn’t matter what kind of vehicle a person is driving. There’s no pecking order. A Pinto driver’s wave is worth the same as that of a Lexus driver. It’s an equal opportunity salute.

I grew up waving. It was an exhibition of proper manners. The wave wasn’t restricted to the people I knew. It was a way to avoid avoiding eye contact. A friend lost a forefinger, so he was destined to become a shop teacher, but he still waved diligently.

I waved at another driver recently. It was a reflex action.

“Who was that?” asked my favorite passenger, my wife, The Queen B.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I waved.”

A wave is a symbol of a shared road. The recognition of a fellow traveler. A wave communicates a willingness to help another should that driver need it. A sign of being a part of a community. It forges a link between drivers, fostering an understanding. A constant politeness. It’s a reminder to be kind because everyone is fighting a battle.

We wave after snowstorms to let others know we survived. We wave on sunny days to let others know that we’re happy to see them. We wave at those we’ve disagreed with to show that we don’t hold grudges. Swatting at a mosquito or a bee sharing a ride with you doesn’t count as a wave even though it might produce a response from other drivers.

Rural life is changing. It sounds as if I won’t have to wave at my reliable rural mail carrier on Saturdays much longer. A wave is emblematic of good country living. An obligation to wave may seem corny to some, but not to those who grew up on or live along a country road. They understand.

The wave is certainly more country (and small towns) than city. It’s not because the wave is made from soybeans. City dwellers are more likely to avoid both eye contact and waving. City drivers wave a “thank you” when you allow them to merge. They wave a “sorry” when they don’t allow you to merge. The wave might be a mere nod; the apologetic gesture a shrug.

A friend, who resides in a city that might be too large, claims that the only wave he’s ever received is the middle finger.

Please wave, but do so responsibly.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.