Wav­ing good­bye to “The Wave”

It ap­pears the long-stand­ing po­lite sig­nal has dis­ap­peared in this an­gry age

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - KAREN CUM­MING Karen Cum­ming is a free­lance writer who lives and waves in Burling­ton.

My Dad taught me how to drive back in 1970s. Al­most 40 years later, the fact that I never come to a rolling stop at a stop sign is all thanks to him. I can still hear his voice in my head say­ing, “Stop means stop, not slow down. They’ll give you a ticket if you don’t.” As usual, my Dad knew bet­ter. He taught me to do the right thing. Not just when I felt like it, but all the time.

In spite of his ex­pert in­struc­tion, you can bet there were at least a few oc­ca­sions when my teenaged brain for­got to stop. I got a ticket. I paid the price. That’s the thing about do­ing the right thing. There’s a price to be paid when you don’t.

Dad taught me that if you were go­ing to do some­thing, you jolly well bet­ter do it right. “Jolly well.” When’s the last time you heard that? He was also a fan of “Sam Hill,” as in: “What in the Sam Hill do you think you’re do­ing?” To this day, I don’t know who Sam Hill was, or why my Dad was such a fan of his.

Don’t get me wrong — Dad wasn’t per­fect. I won’t even tell you about the time he and his bud­dies were al­most hit by a train when their car got stuck on the tracks near Glen­coe one Hal­loween night in the 1950s. In a cruel yet wildly funny twist of fate, Dad was ap­par­ently wear­ing a Daisy Mae cos­tume — Daisy Mae, from the car­toon strip “Li’l Ab­ner.” By the grace of God, he and his friends got the car off the tracks just in the nick of time. It was the one oc­ca­sion where his driv­ing skills weren’t what you’d call ex­em­plary. On the bright side, those who knew him well say he looked good in a skirt. But I di­gress.

Dad was a Mer­chant Marine dur­ing the war; he was a man of in­tegrity. Dur­ing our driv­ing lessons, this meant al­ways us­ing proper form: “Two hands on the wheel, look in the mir­rors, leave plenty of space be­tween you and the next guy,” he would say again and again.

But Dad taught me some­thing else — some­thing I still do to this day. And maybe you do, too. “The wave.”

You know the one I mean. Some­one lets you merge into traf­fic on the high­way, and you give them “the wave” — that po­lite wave in the rear view mir­ror that says ‘Thank-you for help­ing me. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate you do­ing that.’”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, folks, but the wave … is dead. Deader than a door­nail. It has dis­ap­peared from the mas­ter list of so­cial graces that we all sub­scribe to in this civ­i­lized so­ci­ety of ours. Say­onara. Gone baby, gone. There wasn’t a death no­tice in the news­pa­per, by the way. We all just woke up one morn­ing to dis­cover it had dis­ap­peared for good.

Call it a sign of the times in a day and age when mil­lions of us seem to care more about our­selves and the lat­est pic­ture we’ve posted to Face­book than we do about our fel­low man. It’s a “me, me, me” world out there, and you’ll likely never no­tice it more than on the high­way.

Can’t you just hear Jerry Se­in­feld now? “Where’s the wave? What hap­pened to the wave? Why am I the only one do­ing the wave?” And I am noth­ing if not de­fi­ant. I do the wave con­stantly. I even roll down my win­dow to twirl my hand in the air in a su­per­sized ver­sion of the wave. In­side my car, I yell at other peo­ple when they don’t do the wave.

“Re­ally?” I ask in dis­be­lief. “Re­ally?” It makes me think of my Dad ev­ery time. What would he say if he were still alive? He’d prob­a­bly just shake his head and won­der why peo­ple aren’t do­ing the right thing. “There’s a price to be paid when you don’t,” he’d say. And it’s a big one. We’re los­ing the sim­ple so­cial graces that make this life of ours a sweeter ride. #BringBack­TheWave.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, folks, but the wave … is dead. Deader than a door­nail. It has dis­ap­peared from the mas­ter list of so­cial graces.

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