Talk with the hand (or the head or whatever, just please do something)

13 Jan

So yesterday I’m picking up the girls from school and this guy’s trying to exit the pick up lane, so I let him in because hey, it’s a dog eat dog parking lot out there and our survival ultimately depends on our willingness to work together.  So I let him in and wait for some small token of gratitude—you know, the customary hand wave or smile or even nod.  Guess what I got.  Nothing.  No-thing.  Harumph!

Believe me, I’m not picky about my acknowledgements, and I’m always ready to give the benefit of the doubt.  You so much as look in my direction without a sneer, and I’ll take that as a thank you.  But not even a backwards glance.  He may as well have rolled down his window and shouted, “See ya, suckah!

I so do not get that.  See, I’m the woman outside of the grocery store with a full cart and three kids waving the cars by so they don’t have to wait for me to cross, and if they do insist I always give a wave.  And a smile.  And usually a thank you, too, though I realize drivers aren’t likely to hear it I hope they can read the lips.

I have a few different waves in my repertoire, depending on the occasion.  As a pedestrian crossing a street or parking lot, I used to just hold up the hand.  Then I started to worry that someone might misinterpret my thank you for a command to halt, so now I usually do some kind of  hand/nod or hand/mouthed thank you combination.  If I’m at a four way stop at the same time as another car and they wave me on, I respond in kind.  Sometimes this gets me into trouble as they take my wave for a signal that I want them to go first, so now I’ll proceed into the intersection and then give a friendly wave so as to avoid the confusion.  And if I’m in a life or death changing lanes or elementary school parking lot situation, I’ll give an emphatic wave.  If I think there’s a chance they didn’t see it the first time, I’ll do it again.  Two is about my limit, though.  I won’t like follow them down the street or anything.  I mean, I want to be sure they know I’m grateful, but I don’t want to freak them out. 

What’s really nice is when you get some kind of reciprocal gesture, so you don’t have to lie awake at night wondering if the lady with three kids in the blue Chrysler Town & Country fully understood the depth of your gratitude for letting you in at the 4th street freeway on-ramp.  I try to remember to do that for people.  Do unto others…

I’m thinking they should incorporate some kind of advanced road etiquette in driver’s ed.  You know, teach people the code.  I had always just kind of assumed that people were born with natural instincts for the code, but maybe some people just don’t come by the code naturally. We can’t really hold them accountable in their ignorance, can we?

Do you have any particular procedures or protocols for giving roadway thanks?  Do you live by the code?


12 Responses to “Talk with the hand (or the head or whatever, just please do something)”

  1. madhousewife January 13, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    What I need is a code for “Oops, I sooooo did not mean to do THAT. Seriously, I am not usually this much of an idiot. Sorry! So sorry! Sorry sorry sorry!”

    I mean…it would be nice if other people did that gesture unto me on occasion. Not that I ever do stupid things while driving. No. Never.

  2. flip flop mama January 13, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    I live by the code and it drives me crazy that there are so many people out there that don’t. Let’s just all be courteous drivers, people!

    Although like mad, I would like a Oh crap, sorry! code to be written too…especially for all the idiots out there doing crappy stuff to me on the road.

  3. kamillivanilli January 13, 2009 at 12:39 pm #

    Ummmm…my code usually involves a certain finger of my hand raised into an upward position….

    Not really…I don’t think I’ve ever done that…well maybe once or twice, but not since I’ve become an almost-responsible mother.

    I also need a “sorry” wave. My waves are all the same–just a simple hand in the air. No side to side movement. Just a hand raised–an acknowledgment of their act of kindness, and/or an acknowledgment of my stupidity. One way or another, I hope the point is well taken.

  4. Julie January 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    I have so many gestures. If on a country road and passing a farmer in a truck, a simple head bob will do.

    If in town and being let in a lane or allowed a left-turn, a nod and wave (only in one direction — no “hello” waving involved) is necessary.

    If being allowed to cross the grocery store parking lot as a pedestrian with several chitlens in tow, a nod, wave, and audible “thanks” are always in order.

    If being cut off by a “less skilled” driver, I let my kids do the talking. Chloe’s always ready with a “what’re ya doin’, lady?!” she learned from her daddy.

    And finally, when I’m the less skilled driver (regularly — really I’m a crappy driver), I always give the rear view mirror wave, the mouthed “sorry” or the “I’m an idiot” eye-roll.

    I second the teaching of the higher code in driver’s ed.

  5. Mother of the Wild Boys January 13, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    I live by the code. 🙂

  6. Susan M January 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    I wave at people who are nice enough to let me change lanes, merge, etc.

    What makes me mad is when people don’t take the right-of-way when it’s theirs, but instead wave to me to take it. It’s dangerous. Don’t do it. I used to live in a small town that literally had about 5 traffic lights, and only one four-way stop. A retirement town. Where all the old retired folks would always wave me through even though they had the right-of-way at the four-way stop.

    I’m telling, you get used to people waving you on, you eventually just start taking the right-of-way even when it’s not yours. I’ve had it happen. I mean, I did it all the time.


    My son laughs at me because I talk to other drivers all the time. “You go, then I go, that’s how it works.” “You’re not going to let me over, are you?” “Yeah, thanks for using the blinker there. It’s not like I need to know you’re planning on turning, or anything.” His theory is that it’s my super power. Making other drivers hear me when I talk to them.

  7. bythelbs January 13, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    Mad—I have an “oops” gesture. It’s a shoulder shrug with small wave and an “I’m sorry”. Every once in a while someone is nice enough to respond with an obvious “no problem” look. Or maybe it’s their “Idiot!” look and I’m just choosing to believe otherwise.

    Flip—Yes, can’t we all just drive along?!

    kamilli—I only do the side to side movement when I’m worried they won’t see the hand up. Like when it’s dark or pouring down rain and they’re behind me letting me pull out of a parking spot or change lanes or something.

    Julie—“What’re ya doin’, lady?!” is frequently heard in our car too, but I’m usually the one saying it. Chloe is too cute.

    Mother—Of course you do. I would expect nothing less.

    Susan—You’re so right about that right of way thing. It’s kind of obnoxious when people won’t take their turns–it just makes everything confusing and take twice as long. I think I’ve said all of those things to other drivers, too. My kids think I’m nuts. I kind of like being the nutty mom sometimes.

  8. Alison Wonderland January 14, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    Oh I need the I’m an idiot gesture too. I mean I agree that other people need it. Or something.

    But yes, I live by the code. I’m a diehard waver. In fact I was a little freaked out on Monday by the fact that I couldn’t wave (well, I could wave but it wouldn’t be seen) because I had a bug bunkbed board thingy in my car and it was completely obscuring the back window so there was on way the driver who let me in was going to see my wave. Sad.

  9. flip flop mama January 14, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    Susan M, they do that ALL the time in Hawaii. Drives me nuts! I feel like yelling, “It’s not my turn, just go already!”

  10. thewoobdog January 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm #

    SAME HERE! I always feel bad and obsess when I think someone hasn’t seen my ‘thank-you’ wave or acknowledging head-nod.

    Glad to know I’m not a freak. Or, if I AM a freak, I have such great co-freaks to keep me company. 🙂

  11. thewoobdog January 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Although I admit that sometimes, if I KNOW someone wants over and it’s just not happening (for whatever reason, although I usually DO try), I go out of my way to avoid eye contact. Any eye contact. Usually this happens when I have unwittingly pulled too far forward and blocked some egress or something, and someone of course pulls up to said egress and wants out but there’s no way I can LET them out (having, as I said, pulled too far forward). I always feel so guilty and I’m always afraid they’ll have that ‘go to h*ll, you rude and horrible bench’ look on their face if I DO make eye contact… So I act completely oblivious to the fact that they’re there.

    Which is probably awful. And probably isn’t fooling anyone.

  12. bythelbs January 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    woobdog—I do the same thing! Avoid eye contact, pretend you don’t notice!

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