The Courtesy Wave

The courtesy wave is simple, easy and will only take a second of a driver’s time to acknowledge those who are courteous to others on the road, and if you are like me, one of those waves might be able to turn your entire day around.

If you have ever bellowed “Hey, the speed limit is sixty down here!” when you are deliberately cut off by someone who then slows down to 40 right in front of you or found yourself sitting in traffic on a blocked lane while other drivers speed past you, or after being particularly generous and letting someone in ahead of you, you receive no sign of gratitude, then you know exactly how I feel.

It’s not hard to see that courtesy on the road is definitely lacking.

On one particularly gloomy weekday, after spending half my day at work and half of it at school, I met with a driver who, for reasons unknown to me, sped up in the lane next to mine, passed me without signalling, and once in front of me, slowed down to the crawling speed of 40.

I’m usually very patient, but knowing that the road is congested on either side of me and that now this driver is hindering my way home, I cannot help but lose my patience. I’m reduced to yelling at my windshield, knowing I cannot be heard but just needing to vent.

I can feel the eyes of the other drivers on me with eyebrows raised as though they are concluding that I might be crazy — some no doubt adding their very own hilarious soundtrack out of my ranting and raving. Was the driver in front of me playing some kind of joke? Was it his mission to piss me off?

I am suddenly reminded of a message that has been driven into my brain by the media: Speed kills. I agree, but driving slow enough to hinder my way home kills my patience.

The crowd thins out and I switch to the other lane only to find that I have hit another snag — construction — on the last leg of my journey home. Bright orange cones have now blocked one lane on a two-lane road.

Not only do I have to move over, but I have to wait to be let in while other drivers speed right past me without so much as a pitiful look my way. I wait and I wait and I wait, but not one of them lets me in; I am stuck there, encouraged to start yelling obscenities out my open window. “Give me a break,” I mumble with a heavy sigh of frustration.

Nobody lets me in, and it is only when there is a lull in the traffic flow that I’m given a chance to move into the unblocked lane. Of course I feel sorry for the other drivers who have also been caught in the wrong lane and I refuse to be like the ones who have sped past me without a thought, so I courteously wave a few of them in ahead of me.

I hope that at least one of those drivers acknowledges me with the courtesy wave, and in return I receive nothing.

I have never felt so put out before, so disappointed in humanity. I drive home, mumbling to myself that I will never be so nice again. I’m fuming and furious and ready to beat my fists against the steering wheel when finally I reach my back lane.

Usually it is empty, but today I have come front bumper to front bumper with another vehicle, one I recognize by the licence plate; we both live down this back lane. Feeling defeated, I wave him through — my last act of kindness for the day.

Just as he makes his turn, I see it: a glimmer of hope in the shape of a hand raised just high enough for me to see. This same hand waves, and immediately all my anger drains away.

It’s just a little wave, I know, but that little wave is enough to convince me that not everyone has lost their decency and respect for others; that one gesture changed everything — even my mood.

I practise the courtesy wave to acknowledge all the good drivers that go out of their way to make it easier for others on the road, and it might be just a wave, but it’s enough.