Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doing the Wave

Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm practicing waving.

I'm off to Kansas for a family reunion. While there, I'll engage in the Midwesterner's inalienable right to drive long distances to get groceries, go to the movies, and shop at WalMart.

It's not unlike living in suburbia.

The difference is that when driving in suburbia you're sitting with hundreds, if not thousands, of cars, all moving at about five miles per hour, down eight-lane superhighways.

In Kansas, you're meeting one car every five to ten minutes coming at you on a two lane road at a combined speed of well over 100 miles per hour.

And, likely as not, the driver knows you.

This requires some form of acknowledgment in the brief time you're going to be making eye contact. It might be, e.g., your third cousin's favorite niece's third husband's mother. If you don't acknowledge your existence you'll get a call from your aunt, along the lines of “ Michael John Mehl, you drove right passed Matilda Hollister and didn't even say hello!”

Or it might be someone from a school whose team you beat forty years ago for the Quivera League championship. “Did you see that Mehl kid? He just drove on buy without saying anything. He's gotten pretty stuck up since he got that job out East.”

On the other hand, you can't just stick up your hand and wave it back and forth, like Queen Elizabeth. Trust me, you look like a dork. You need a subtle wave, one that's visible to the other driver, but not looking like you're trying to flag down the bus to Salina.

It's kind of a half salute, really. You start to move your right hand off the steering wheel toward your forehead, but it never gets there. If it turns out you don't know the person, your thumb need never leave the wheel. If it's someone you know fairly well, say your Senior Prom date, it's OK to lift the hand halfway to your forehead and open the palm in a slight waving motion, possibly touching the brim of your cap, if you're wearing one.

Other people get proportionately smaller waves.

When I was out in Kansas last month I noticed that I'd forgotten most of this. Hence the remedial wave practice. So if you see me driving down the road today, hand moving up and down in random fashion, you'll know what I'm doing.

See y'all in a week or so.