Waving… to literally everyone
How living in a small town made me a habitual waver
I’d never really been what you might call a “waver”: that effusive sort of fellow who is always quick with a gregarious hand raised in friendly greeting.
Perhaps that came from living 30 years in a big, bustling city, where sidewalks were constantly teaming with people, all of them strangers, and all wearing that same harried expression of someone who needed to be somewhere five minutes ago. And I was one of them—walking with that self-important stride of a person who has somewhere to be!
But then we left the big city, and moved to the comparatively tiny town of Spring City, where the pace was decidedly different… A bit more laid-back and a lot more casual. And I began to discover that I could take my time strolling to the post-office or the cafe; and that a neighbor might see me as I passed by and want to chat for a few leisurely minutes over the fence; or that an acquaintance might drive past me as I ambled along, and stop their car—right in the middle of the street—to say hello, and to ask about my welfare; and that a familiar beagle would invariably yelp his greeting, then expect me to stop to administer a few scratches under his chin, before moseying upon my merry way.
People are inherently friendlier in a small town; I suppose because we mostly know one another. We even come to recognize one another’s vehicles, and thus receive friendly waves while driving into or out of town.
But it’s even more than this. I expect to get waves when driving our recognizably unique little Italian car (“Oh, there go the Thatchers, honey; wave to them!”) But I find I get nearly as many waves when driving our less recognizable pickup truck. People just tend to wave around here—even to strangers!
I do it, too. At first, it seemed odd. My wife would notice me waving to a passing car and ask, “Do you know them?” I didn’t. But they’d waved to me first, so it seemed only neighborly to wave back.
And then it became a habit (a good one, I think), to just wave to everyone. Sometimes a reciprocally friendly wave is returned; sometimes just that single index-finger raised, barely perceptibly, from the steering-wheel, or even just a simple bob of the head—all acknowledged and appreciated.
But then there’s the fellow who rides his bike regularly through town and along Pigeon Hollow Road; and, for him, I will roll the car window all the way down to get my arm fully outstretched in a grand, encouraging gesture as I pass; and his return wave is equally robust. Am I personally acquainted with this particular cyclist? Not really. But we have become friends, of a sort, simply through our persistent and increasingly spirited waves to one another.
I now wave to everyone. I have become a committed and a conscientious waver.
And wavers tend to wave, wherever they go, which has earned me some confused and even consternated looks whenever I ply my waving practice in the bigger cities of Provo or Salt Lake. (I can imagine the conversion inside the car I just passed: “Do we know that person? Why the heck was he waving at us?)
It used to bother me whenever I’d raise a hand of greeting to a passing vehicle and get nothing in return; but it doesn’t anymore. I wave. It’s just become second nature to me. It’s what people from small towns do. And it becomes habitual.