Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Texas Finger Wave

... or "A Guide to Traveling on Texas Backroads"

When traveling on the backroads of Texas, you'll occasionally pass a vehicle going in the opposite direction. Aside from the very real concerns of how to get out of their way on these narrow goat paths, a question of protocol arises.

It is common custom to wave at the person in the opposite vehicle. They are likely a local since they're off the beaten path. It's a courtesty to be extended.

The accepted minimal standard of honoring this etiquette is to raise your index finger on the hand that is gripping the steering wheel. This is the one-finger wave. (NOTE: Make sure it is clearly your index finger being raised if you wish to avoid unpleasantness.)

A more friendly individual will raise all four fingers to wave, but still keep his or her hand on the top of the steering wheel. This is the wave that I commonly employ. It is friendly but non-committal.

Now often I will pass a vehicle which I frequently pass, such as my neighbor Sam. He has a beat-up old green truck that is easily recognizable due to the improbable number of coon dogs jumping around in the back. When Sam goes to town, all of his dogs go with him.

Sam is a good fellow, so I must do more than the minimally acceptable level. Sam receives a wave where I take my hand off of the steering wheel and raise it clearly in the cab of the truck so he may see it. He will return that wave with one as equally high. Protocol satisfied, we both go on our way.

Occasionally you will give a higher standard of a wave than the one that will be returned. A four finger wave might be returned with a one fingered wave, for instance. This is considered bad form. The wise person will identify the vehicle approaching and try to estimate the type of wave that is appropriate.

Though the world is filled with unfriendly people and sometimes a wave will go unreturned, this is not acceptable unless you are within 90 miles of Dallas Fort-Worth or Austin, towns known for a high concentration of rude people.

The exception to the mandate of returning a wave is little old ladies wearing enormous black sunglasses and who can barely see over the steering wheel as it is. When they are identified to be approaching, the best result can be obtained by immediately zooming into the bar ditch, clearing the pavement as much as possible, and then cringing in terror until they have passed.

The Texas road wave is as complex a social gesture as a Japanese bow, but in time you will learn to master it.

1 comment:

Gorges Smythe said...

I always called that a "trucker's wave," though a lot of other folks use it, too. We use a lot of "forehead throws" around here. That's where you keep both hands on the wheel, so you won't go over the mountain, and throw your head back for a split-second to show your respect to whoever is passing by.

Back in my wasted youth, my city-slicker friend couldn't get over how nearly everyone in the country waved at strangers. I told him to always wave at the natives, since you never knew when you might need to use their phone. THAT, he could relate to!