When we first moved to Virginia from Colorado, we spent a lot of time driving around in Red Van. We drove through neighborhoods looking for houses. We drove through the old neighborhoods where my dad grew up, visiting all the places he used to hang out. We drove to visit family we hadn’t ever met, or hadn’t seen in years. And on almost every one of these trips, we’d drive by people in their yards and on the street who would wave at us, and my dad would wave back.

This bizarre behavior would immediately launch a thousand questions. “Do you know that guy? Who is that? Why did they just wave at us?”

Dad explained that these people were just being friendly. This is what people did in the South, he said. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know them.

This was totally baffling. Why would people wave at us when we didn’t even know them?

It took years for us to get used to this, and when I began driving, I was really uncomfortable waving back at people I didn’t know. At first I completely ignored them, and then I went through a phase of kind of doing a half-assed nod in return, splitting the difference between being outright rude and outright friendly.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed myself waving back to those friendly people. And once in a while, I even smile.

8 Replies to “Wave”

  1. whenever i am driving in my (very green) beetle, i wave at anyone else who is driving a matching one. :-)

  2. Waving is nice. I noticed a ton of people were doing that in England on the small country roads.

    Jim, I try doing the same thing with fellow Mini drivers and just get pissed because most of them aren’t into the waving.

  3. I grew up in the south, in a very very small town, where I became accustomed to this tradition quite early on in my years. So now, any time I’m driving through residential areas I expect people to wave at me as I pass by. If they don’t I get mad and run them over. Just kidding. But sometimes I forget I’m not in small town Louisiana anymore where random waving is a way of life.

  4. yeah… waving is great… except when you wave and smile at a small boy who is looking at you through the back window of the car in front of you and he proceeds to flip you off… not once… but twice!

  5. When I first got to Dallas, before moving to NYC, I tried to help out around my mom’s house. One day, while mowing the front lawn, a car drove up to our corner, slowed suddenly and turned onto our street. I noticed the car only in periphery but it didn’t take more than a moment for me to stop, turn and scowl at the driver.

    By the time I’d taken account of the entire family, husband, wife, two kids in back – all smiling, I noticed the husband/driver was waving and they were merely observing safe driving in a residential area (and/or looking for an address). I immediately felt mean and embarrassed. I quickly shot a wave back and dug back into mowing.

    Growing up in a town without lawns and where a car that suddenly slows is either casing your house or preparing to shoot you, one picks up different reactions than those more appropriate to where I’d relocated.
    Yeah, adjusting can be a bit bumpy sometimes.
    (-and I miss that about TX now.)

  6. I find I wave (and get waved at) more in the rural area of our county (where we are) than in the large town I live near. There is some balance point that is reached where there are too many people to wave at, not unlike Crocodile Dundee in NYC where he says, “G’day” to everyone he passes.

  7. I don’t live in the South, but old people in St. Louis wave. Just the old folks. I wave back, despite my boiling hatred for anyone over 70, because it’s polite. For some reason, though, it makes me nervous to “Hi” back to anyone who “Hi”s at me while I’m out walking my dog. Like, what are they going to do if I say “Hi,” sic their dog on me?

  8. I definitely noticed the difference when I moved down here from Chicago.

    Shit, in Chicago, you’re lucky if you even get eye contact, let alone a wave or a ‘hi,’ know what I’m sayin’? =)

    But now I’m used to it. The waves, the hellos, even the how-are-you’s. =)

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