112. Waving at Strangers in a Hospitable Manner

19 Sep

On my first date with Geoff, after dining at a former brothel and before my favorite jug band hit the stage at Sunset Tavern, we had time for a stroll along Ballard Ave. As we passed the window of a restaurant, we noticed a group of about 8 to 10 people waving at us most enthusiastically. I didn’t recognize anyone, nor did he, and eight years later we still haven’t a clue what that was about.

Of course, had said incident occurred in the South, I most likely wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Ok, perhaps a second, possibly a third, but definitely not a 37th (Who WERE those people? Oops! Make that 38th). Unlike eating tofu, waving is just one of those things Southerners do. It’s like we breeze through the “Wave bye-bye to mommy” stage and master “Wave hello to that guy mowing his lawn” before we can even walk.

I haven’t studied any data on the subject, but I believe the frequency of waving depends on the size of the town. The smaller the population, the greater one’s likelihood of becoming a wave-ee.

I’m not even counting:

• Waves of recognition from folks you know (because they usually skip right on past waving or handshakes and go straight for the hug).

• Waves from automobiles to indicate A. “Thanks for letting me in your lane, kind driver” or B. “Oops! Sorry, I’m a dumbass, not an asshole.” (Like when you almost plow into a pedestrian–theoretically, of course).

• Beauty Queen-style waves from parade floats. (There’s a mnemonic device for this, which starts with “Screw in a lightbulb, touch the pearls…” Sadly, I’ve forgotten the rest. Can anybody help me out?)

• Waves from anyone dressed as food, wearing a sandwich board, or holding a sign. Either they’re being paid or hoping to, preferred currency being cash or occasionally attention.

I’m talking about random acts of waving. Like when a lady planting an azalea in her yard or an elderly gent taking his daily stroll to the mailbox takes a moment to look up, smile, and offer a friendly wave. As if they’re saying, “Hello, fellow human, nice to share the planet with you.” Or else possibly they’re being swarmed by gnats or mosquitos. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

One night when I was in college, my friend Sandy and I were driving around aimlessly when we took up the notion to start waving at folks we passed in a vigorous, insistent way, not necessarily in a “Your left rear tire has burst into flames!” manner, but more along the lines of, “Elvis!! You’re alive!!” or “Hey, Ed McMahon, come on over to my doorstep!” Probably, those folks were just as perplexed as Geoff and I were following our walk-by waving incident. Come to think of it, perhaps all my former random wave recipients decided to hold a reunion in Seattle and turn the tables.

Anyhoo, if you happen to be in the South and find yourself on the receiving end of a seemingly random wave, the proper response is to smile and wave back. Just remember to use all your fingers.

How do you feel about exchanging hand gestures with strangers?

Photo credits: Adorable waving elf by GoodlookinVintage available here, Food Dude by yasa_, Flickr Creative Commons.

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16 Responses to “112. Waving at Strangers in a Hospitable Manner”

  1. Hope September 19, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    I’m am cracking up! I just read parts of your blog to a visitor who is not from around “here”. He doesn’t get it. At all. Which makes it even funnier.

    I’ve noticed some small towns replace the drive by wave with, “the nod.”

    As always, you have written the truth. So true, very true!

    • Kim Holloway September 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      Oh, yes, I forgot about the nod. On rare occasions, I’ve been on the receiving end of a nod here in Seattle. I’m guessing the nodders might be fellow Southern expats.

  2. Hippie Cahier September 19, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    It is sad that you can’t remember the mnemonic for the queenly wave. It sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? I wonder if it’s the Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, which I had carried with me for the past week or so but just took out of my bag last night. Darn it all.

    I rather enjoy the idea that your former wave recipients gathered for a friendly reunion. Go with that. 🙂

    • Kim Holloway September 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

      I KNOW! I don’t even want to tell you how much time I wasted trying to find answers from the Internets. I do recall exactly where I learned it, but not who from. It was at a gathering organized by a friend of a friend back in MS. Wish I still had the invite because it was hilarious. The group was called the Something Something Matron’s Society and everyone was required to wear hats and gloves. Somebody taught us the pageant wave and we practiced it while parading around the restaurant. I believe there was also a hat contest. I might remember it all better if the mimosas hadn’t been so tasty. I do have photos around here somewhere that I’ll dig up and post one of these days.

  3. Breenie September 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    I’ve heard the “pageant wave” directions are elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist..

    I’ve been known to “throw my hand up” a time or two…(hand, mostly…middle finger..on occasion!)

    My brother used to wave at Granny Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies thinking he was waving at our “Mimi”…(no, he didn’t ride the short bus…he was 3 at the time!) haha!

    • Kim Holloway September 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      Yep, that’s another variation. That one goes “Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist. Touch the pearls and blow a kiss.”

      Oh, Lord, my mom (who also went by “Mimi” to her grand kids) would’ve been horrified if one of my nephews (or niece) confused her with granny clampett. The horror! The horror! 🙂

  4. Betty September 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I always give a thank you wave to drivers who let me in. And I always wave to the brave souls willing to don a ridiculous costume and stand on a corner to attract customers’ business – not that I’ve ever then gone into the place of business.

    • Kim Holloway September 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      No matter where I am, i always do the thank you wave in traffic. Mainly because I always think about how aggravated my sister gets when she doesn’t receive one. You are a kinder soul than I to wave at costumed folks. I must admit, I usually avert my eyes and hope that the light changes soon.

  5. Sara September 19, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Both my husband and I are from the south (Texas), and we’ve moved to Finland, a country nearly notorious for it’s introversion. Most people do not make eye contact, say hello or even nod when you pass them on the street, or even when you get onto the elevator with them. We were out walking one night and passed the woman planting azaleas, not more than three feet from where we were walking. She looked up, we nodded and said hello (in Finnish), and she looked at us like we had lost our minds *and* had dog poop on our face, before quickly bending her head again. I’ll tell you what – it’s hard to get used to!!

    • Kim Holloway September 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Hey, but at least she was planting azaleas! 🙂

  6. Al Underwood September 24, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Once while walking on the sidewalk near Beverly Hills, a couple was approaching me walking their dog. Now, I had been in L.A. for a few days and was getting tired of the non responsiveness, so at this particular time I expressed a quiet “good morning” on approach (and even got an acknowledgement) and topped it off with an exuberant “HOW Y’ALL DOIN’?”…needless to say, then there appeared to be a state of shock….

    • Kim Holloway September 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Love the exuberant “How y’all doin’?” I’ll have to try it in Seattle sometime.

  7. John Hutch September 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    I’m from the South & live in Seattle & often nod, say “Hi y’all doin?” much to my wife’s (from the East) chagrined. I’m a blue hair now so I can get away with most any greeting.

    • Kim Holloway October 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Yep, being a blue hair is sort of like having a superpower.

  8. Editor October 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    My dad always waved at strangers. I do it, too, but only to annoy my 12-year-old daughter.

    • Kim Holloway October 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      Ah, yes, one of the greatest joys of parenthood: annoying one’s children. Or so I hear, anyway…

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