The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Good Neighbors - A Friendly Wave

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012

Issue: April, 1983

Visitors to this area are often surprised as they drive through and are waved to by people they don’t know. Many think they are being mistaken for someone else and those from large cities simply don’t know what to think. Waving or throwing up your hand to passing cars is just not done in most places but here in the mountains, it’s a way to say hello to friends, neighbors and strangers. It’s a throwback to a simpler era when people passed on wagons, threw up hands and more often than not, stopped and talked a spell. In automobiles on highways, it’s difficult to stop and talk (although it still happens occasionally) but folks still wave.

A wave might be executed with the entire hand or it may be one finger raised over the steering wheel, but they all say hello. Everyone has their own style of waving and there are an endless number of people I could identify by seeing only their hand or finger over the steering wheel. The way someone waves often becomes their trademark. Whether it’s the way they twist their hand or lift their finger; their wave is associated as part of them and often describes their personalities.

The styles of waving vary with the individuals driving style. People who drive with one hand at the top of the steering wheel raise one, two, three or even four fingers. Those who drive with two hands may raise any number of fingers on either hand or both hands. There is a civilian salute and a widespread palm against the windshield and every number of variations you can imagine on these and all the above. Some folks even say you can tell which neighborhood the waver is from by the style they use. I can’t verify this but, now that I think about it, the theory bears further study.

Isn’t it wonderful there is a place where people still take time to wave? To say hello with their hands as they pass on the highway. I guess it’s because we’re small communities and time hasn’t drawn us into a headlong race for the next moment before this one’s over, but I’m sure it’s also due, in part, to the fact that here people still take time to say hello and how are you doing. These phrases may be clichés in some places but they still have a meaning and purpose; to acknowledge and say, “Good to see you” to friends whether you know them or not.

Waves by passing drivers might be a thing of the past in some places but I’m glad it’s not here. I’m proud to live in a place where people are friendly and take time to say hello, even if it’s only an index finger raised over the steering wheel of a passing car, it’s an old fashioned hello and one I really appreciate.