In urban areas, where most folks are strangers and can’t hold one another accountable, some drivers comfortably use sign language to inform fellow travelers of their pent-up frustrations. As a result, city drivers often see a middle-finger salute during their drives to and from work.
When I moved to a rural region, I realized one of the bonuses of country life is local drivers don’t do this. Rural drivers often know one another or they know the other person's friends and family. It wouldn’t do to flip off the boss or preacher and then have to come up with a lame excuse such as, “But I was only adjusting my garage door opener.” Instead of insulting one another, country drivers greet everyone, friend or stranger, with the “country wave.”
While urban dwellers easily identify the one-fingered address so often used in their home district, it takes time to realize rural drivers acknowledge everyone they meet on a two-lane road with one of several variations of the friendlier rural salute. Urban visitors to the country must learn this greeting holds no malice, no frustration, no anger. It’s a neighborly, “Good to see you.”
While the one-fingered salute’s only variation involves which hand to use to express those negative feelings, the “country wave” has several presentations. The country driver can issue this with either the right or left hand. What is necessary is a relaxed palm positioned at the top of the steering wheel.
When an oncoming vehicle closes in so that each driver makes eye contact, the person waving has to decide, “One finger--or two--or maybe all four”? The concern with one finger is that the other driver could misinterpret it as one of those city salutes. It takes a confident driver to use the pointer finger wave.
Another more common variation of this greeting involves keeping the palm on the top of the steering-wheel, but instead raising pointer and middle fingers in a synchronized movement. It doesn’t require more energy, and it is easier for the oncoming driver and passengers to see. Pick-up and truck drivers seem to prefer this version of the “country wave.”
Some drivers are so relaxed cruising rural roads they find themselves keeping their palm on the wheel while either four or even eight digits rise in unison to greet the driver coming their way. This is another acceptable variation of the less obvious one or two fingered greetings.
My cousin who lives near Denver recently visited. He told us how much he enjoyed driving section-lines where neighbors acknowledge one another with “the wave.”
Those who live in rural areas know they have too many blessings to count. One of those blessings is the simple “country wave” that says, “Always good to see you.”