Al Batt: I was on a hero’s journey

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Was it Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick?

Al Batt

I was on my version of a hero’s journey, making a trip to town to do some light grocery shopping. A hero’s journey involves a hero (in this case, me) who goes on a great adventure, encounters roadblocks, is victorious in a battle against formidable forces and comes home transformed because Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal was on a BOGO sale.

Everything was somewhere between copacetic and super-duper when I met a vehicle and waved at the driver. He might not have been Colonel Mustard. He wasn’t in the conservatory. I can’t say if he had a candlestick or not. It was unlikely as few cars have them anymore. They stopped being standard equipment in cars in 1966.

The driver might have waved back. I’m not sure. That’s not important. What matters is that I waved. A wave rounds off the edges. It’s a gesture that says, “Congratulations, you’ve lived another day.”

State law says we have to wave to any automobile we meet on a dirt (unpaved) road. I grew up along a gravel road. Dust was my frequent companion. Directions were given from the nearest paved road. My waving wavers, waffles and weakens on highways. There are too many vehicles to wave at. Greeting them all would be wearying and asking for carpal tunnel syndrome.

My first wheeled waving transpired from my one-speed bicycle outfitted with a truck steering wheel in place of handlebars. I pushed it uphill and rode it downhill with boyish enthusiasm. I waved collegially at everyone in all directions.

That old rusty bicycle long ago went to a farm where it could run and play with other bicycles, but I continue to practice drive-by waving while I journey on gravel roads. I wave at anyone on wheels, on horseback, on foot, seated or in a hammock. I wave at other drivers with a flick of my forefinger or the exaggerated motion of my hand. I get similar responses from those heading in the opposite direction on the same path. I receive a signature biker wave from motorcyclists pointing two fingers downward.

Cellphones, despite laws limiting their use while driving, have curtailed waving. It’s difficult to wave while you’re talking on a phone. Phones grab the mind. Giving an acknowledging nod or a shrug isn’t the same as presenting a warm-hearted wave. Waving is a friendly form of social media. The joy of waving is yet another reason to stay off the phone while driving.

He hadn’t waved at me and I’d returned it. I hadn’t waved at him and he’d returned it. We both waved at the same time. It was the act of civilized men who realize each of us is an important part of the people who can be fooled some of the time.

It was my neighbor Crandall. He made a U-turn and pulled into my drive behind me. He had a story to tell. We all do. Crandall had needed to travel from his farm to the Twin Cities for a family gathering. He headed uphill on I-35 with 53,814 other cars. He waved when he passed someone and he waved when someone passed him. He described his fellow travelers as grim drivers headed somewhere they didn’t want to go. He doesn’t jump to conclusions; he comes to conclusions without having to jump. The lack of returned waves was like a nutcracker’s metal pick in one of his fillings. Crandall concluded that drivers on an interstate highway are uppity or at least unfriendly. I assured him they weren’t, even though BMW drivers are unaware their cars have turn signals. I told him I could prove how friendly those other drivers are. He responded by telling me only one reacted with a wiggled wave looking like it had been rolled onto the steering wheel by a dung beetle. Once I cleared that picture from my mind, I recommended the next time he traveled I-35, he should plant himself in the left lane and set his cruise control for 55 mph. That might not be neighborly behavior, but the other drivers would be eager to wave vigorously at him as they passed on the right.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.