Tuesday, August 10, 2010

So what's this post *really* about? I have no idea.

Yesterday, driving home from the gym, (where I nearly killed myself on the elliptical machine and then choked on my water and coughed my head off in front of everyone), I slowed way down to let someone merge in front of me. Their lane was ending, and rather than do what I wanted to do, which was zoom past them, I tried to be nice.

I have thought before that I spend a great deal of time "trying to be nice" to people that don't necessarily ask or expect that of me. But that's a neurosis for another time.

I tried to be nice to this dude and I let him in and he drove on. And so did I. And I was reminded of something that I miss from home and that almost never happens here. The Wave. No, not this:

Though here's a fun fact for you: Aussies call this the "Mexican Wave". Isn't that interesting? No one that I've asked seems to know why.

I mean the Wave of Acknowledgment. The flick of the hand between the driver's seat and the passenger seat that says, "Thanks for that. I acknowledge that you did something for me that you didn't have to do." Growing up, we had the Wave drilled into us. When mom or dad would merge in front or someone would let them in, they'd say, "Amy, wave at that person." And by golly, I did. I guess that technically this would be called the Delegated Wave, but still--the principle remains the same. I drive, therefore I Wave. ("By golly?" Who am I, Opie or something?) City driving has made me a more aggressive driver, but when the occasion calls for it, I always Wave.

So, Aussies don't Wave. Not that I've seen. And that bugs me. Not hugely. I don't even really think about it on a conscious level that much. But if you've ever lived in another country for an extended period of time, you find that there are lots of little things that get at you. It's kind of like a low-level buzzing that you don't normally notice but when you do, you go, "Geez, what is that about?" And for me, this lack of Waving, this is one of them. Is that totally pedantic?

So here I am, driving behind this guy who I've just let in, and I say aloud, "Are you gonna Wave? Are you--nope! No Wave." And I sigh, and this wave of homesickness washes over me. How funny is that? But I'm telling you, it's the little things.

And then I thought of the Steering Wheel Wave, which is really a different animal altogether. You know, when you're driving on a two-lane country road and you pass another car going in the opposite direction? And you both lift a finger or, if you're feeling quite friendly, two fingers off the wheel. Like, "Hey, y'all. Here I am, driving, and there you are. Driving. Let's take this moment to acknowledge our mutual existence. Okay. Bye." It's kind of nice, isn't it? I wonder if they do that on country roads here in Oz.

It would make me feel better if they did.

Aren't we all in this together? Don't we share this planet? I let you merge, you let me? I think I am going to print T-shirts. Or bumper stickers. They'll say, "Wave. By golly."

P.S. Clearly I should not blog after midnight. I am like a gremlin of the blogworld.


  1. Amy, you should blog anytime, even after midnight. I always feel like I'm a little bit closer to you in this great big world when I read your blog. Keep wavin' and "by golly" keep writing! Love ya girl!

  2. Actually, I love this post. The "wave" is important to me, too.
    You made me think of the 1st time that I took Evan up to Uncle Bill's. Everyone we passed gave us at least the one handed steering wheel wave. I knew Evan was unaware of this custom and couldn't resist making him think I knew and/or was related to all of these people...even to the point of making up names and identifying who was coming when their car was still a little dot off in the distance.

  3. Ha Marie, that's funny!

    Amy, you need to come back to the states. It's true that the wave is an article of religious faith to me. It is scandalous that there are countries where it is not practiced.

    It just seems important, especially when driving cars, that we remind each other we're human. Sometimes I go a little overboard on the wave. Like, Matt will be driving and he'll execute the wave, then I add one too. Overkill?

  4. The steering wheel wave? We call that they "L." We lift thumb and fore finger from the wheel in acknowledgement of drivers in the oncoming lane.

    Also, Becky tells me that because I read her blog, and your blog, and your brother's blog, that we are basically related. So, Howdy, sis.

  5. Love it and love the blog! I just want to be on record that I am against the middle finger wave however. That one ruins my day.

  6. I'm not sure, but the wave may be more of a Southern thing than a generalized American thing. But it is certainly our thing.

    This post makes me think of the statement that Becky made about there being no "public smile" in France. Americans go around smiling at people on the streets there and the French think we must be simple-minded.

  7. Do you see me waving at you right now???? I am, honey. I do understand what you are saying. I feel that way here in a big city. People think I am way too friendly but it is the way I was raised and I do not plan on changing any time soon. I enjoyed this blog, as I do all of yours. Love ya

  8. Amy, this post is nostalgic and funny at the same time! I smiled at your description of a "wave of homesickness". On the road going down the mountain, everybody does the two finger salute. I'm afraid if I don't, they'll think I'm a highfalutin city slicker. But then again I smile at total strangers as I pass them in any store, sidewalk, or even a path along the river. Okay, I digress...I'm waving at you.

  9. Oh, I feel sad that we're making you homesick. (And when I say 'we' I really mean 'they'. I do that driving wave all the time when ppl are nice on the road!) I guess maybe in general it's not done as much as it should. And Sydney isn't exactly known as the friendliest city in Australia! But *some* of us do wave, and smile and be generally friendly. And we love you!! :D

  10. Aw you guys are making me smile! Marie, that is hilarious--pretending you knew everyone!! I bet Evan totally bought it. :) And Leah--(Welcome!) yes, the middle finger wave is culturally universal, I think!

    It's interesting, though, cause Aussies are quite friendly in general. And Mai, I'm sure I've overgeneralized! :) You, as one of the nicer people on the planet, are a Waver I'm sure. And no worries, I heart Australia!!

    Jenni, we are totally related. I think this means I can borrow your clothes now, right?

  11. tried to comment this morning but my computer froze!!!
    I think the wave is becoming extinct atleast that's what I've noticed:(
    And I was glad to hear your dad say that it's probably more in Southern America that it's more common:) that makes me feel better as an Aussie (even if I am only a naturalised one):)

  12. We (UK-ites) also call it a Mexican wave, and nope, I have no idea why either!

    And I am with you on the 'are you going to wave'... no.... so rude! train of thought. I have also noticed that it is not so common over here (a few theories as to why but that shouldnt be written here in case I offend anyone too badly!) Its so nice when people do it - a little sunshine in your day!

  13. To quote my British boss from a sermon in 2005 (titled Mexican Wave) here is your answer, and not surprisingly it has to do with the World Cup: "In 1986 the soccer World Cup was held in Mexico. Sadly, the USA didn’t qualify. The tournament is best remembered for bringing to a world audience that communal activity beloved of stadium crowds, the Mexican Wave. The phenomenon is said to have begun at a Californian baseball game in the early 80s. So you could say it’s another product that America outsourced south of the border. In the US it’s just called ‘The Wave’ because calling it a Mexican Wave might affect the balance of trade figures." hahaha.

    Odom, sermon is brilliant, and you can find read the whole thing if you want at the link below. December 18.

  14. We're still waving here in PA. The "thank you/you're welcome" wave, the "two ships passing in the night/two cars passing on a country road" wave, and the "driver to country dweller in their yard" wave, just to name a few.

    If I knew an emoticon for waving I'd type it ;)

    OOooh! But I did have the opposite the other day! I was walking back to the office from the dollar store when a kindly gent sort of held up traffic to let me cross the street, but a pizza delivery guy was saying some very awful cuss words at that guy bc he was blocking his path, so I had to use an "I appreciate it, but this guy behind you has no manners, not even for a pregnant lady walking in 90 degree weather, so best be hurrying on" wave. At least I hope that's how he took it!

  15. Great post! Many people in the U.S. don’t know the Wave or they don’t do it. Some people just need to be taught it. In our early days Hubs taught me about the country road type wave.
    I am amazed at the venom I feel when I let someone merge in and I don’t get the Wave. I have shown my boys that I Wave when allowed to merge in.

  16. Your parents are clearly southern =). I mean as a Californian I waved, but never at my parents urging (I'm just "that" nice;). Love this post.

  17. People in Melbourne wave! Australians don't wave as much for merging I've realised, more if the other driver is waiting for them or something.