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Southern Waving

John W. Pinkerton


In the South, we wave.

A couple of conversations with recent arrivals to Texas will verify that this is a uniquely Southern behavior.  The conversations occurred on the same day.  One was with a young fellow from Detroit, and the other was with a lady from Chicago.  The conversations went as follows:

“Where you from?”


“That’s a horrible place to be from.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Well, how you like it down here?”

“Just fine, but I’m having a hard time getting used to people waving at me all the time.”

grew up waving at friends, associates, and strangers.  It comes to me as naturally as falling off a log.  I guess I learned this behavior from my folks when I was growing up.

Of course the question is why we wave at people, many of whom we do not know, many of whom we have never seen before and will probably never see again?

Well, I guess the most obvious answer is that we’re being courteous when we wave at someone as we drive down the road or we see someone driving by.  It’s probably a little confusing to policemen at times who have to decipher if it’s a call for help or simply a  salute of a fellow citizen.

It’s perhaps a little more than courtesy.  Perhaps it’s a signal to our neighbors that we know they are there and we acknowledge their right to be…to exist, to share the planet with us.

The waves are not restricted to race or creed. Blacks and Whites wave at each other.  Catholics and Baptists wave at each other.  For a couple of years, I drove from home to work on twenty-five miles of rural road.  There was an old fellow who sat on his front porch along the way with whom I exchanged waves each morning.  If he wasn’t there on his porch, I missed him and was a little concerned about his well-being.  I suspect he felt the same way.  It was just our way of saying, “You’re not alone.”

I recall once being chewed out by an older fellow for not waving at him when I passed him.  That wasn’t true, but I must admit that I wasn’t very fond of the fellow and only managed to raise a finger from the steering wheel in salute.  It wasn’t much of a wave, but it was the best I could do.  I am not an animal.

I guess the Southern wave is a way of saying that we see each other and appreciate each other and know that we’re all in the same boat.