As I’m driving one day, a car turns into our neighborhood and waves at me. I’m new in town, so clearly, I do not know him. Should I wave back? Why would he wave at me? From my studies in college on communication and human interaction, I can conclude that this is not an introduction, nor a conversation starter. How inappropriate when driving since clearly verbal communication is out of the question. I proceed to drive on, but his gesture is still on my mind. So as I’m pulling in to the office, I find myself raise my hand in an acknowledgement type fashion; somewhat stating the fact that I’m here, I’m supposed to be here, and that I noticed they were here too. Oh no. It’s contagious. I now wave at people and I have no idea who they are.
Throughout the rest of the day, I wondered how this small and kind expression had allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone as an introvert, and grant me the control that I so often crave and lack. “The wave”, as I call it, is very commanding. It asks so many questions, demands answers, and yet requires so little as a movement that vocalization is neither needed nor warranted. I can somewhat compare it to the hand motion so popularly created by Star Wars. Darth Vader motions his hand in a semi-circle or rainbow pattern to command the doors to open. I know several people, including my husband, that use this signal to coax the automatic doors at Wal-Mart open to assert their dominance. However, I feel there is more to “the wave” than just using the force to get your way.
Coming from the city, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen “the wave” used in small town culture. There are so many meanings that go along with “the wave” that one must be in the situation to truly gain the knowledge of what the person might mean. It could simply be a greeting between one party and another. “The wave” could ask the question of what someone is up to, or what they are doing. The key to this one is in the response. If the other party does not respond, it could be meant out of rudeness, or the possibility that this person does not belong. Another key would be if you know the other person you are waving at. No prior knowledge of the other person clearly dictates that the wave is meant as an introduction or the demanding question of what the other person’s purpose at this location is.
Think about it like this. If you wave at someone who you do not know, and they do not wave back, wouldn’t you wonder what they are up to? I acknowledged that you are here, so have some respect and acknowledge me too. Otherwise, be considered an enemy of the state.
In Texas, “the wave” is often a gesture such as holding open a door. It’s out of a courtesy to another vehicle, such as I see you were here first, please go ahead. Someone a long time ago, when I was a child, told me she waved at everyone she passed because she didn’t want to seem rude if she knew the person and did not at least say hi.
I also find it intriguing that as an introvert, you can not hide from the brief social interaction of “the wave”. When walking down the street, an introvert might be tempted to look down as they walk or take out their cell phone as to avoid uncomfortable eye contact or confrontation. When driving, these responses seem dangerous and absurd.
Now that you are educated in “the wave”, I expect you will go out and try it on your own. See what kind of responses you get, and what questions you ask. I have to go find that guy from a few days ago and make sure he gets the wave he deserves.