2 Aug 2012

Blog - Driving etiquette - the finger or full wave?

I live in a rural area where most of the roads are country lanes and frequently narrow to the point where  only one car (or lorry) can pass at a time.

Humpback bridges, narrow lanes, tractors or cars parked up - most journeys involve one or other of these.  And in these situations sometimes two cars will arrive at the same 'pinch point' from opposite directions and at the same time.  There will then be that game of chicken where the two drivers, both in metal boxes and twenty or so yards away, need to decide who will stop and who will pass.

Sometimes this is resolved immediately by one driver putting his foot on the accelerator and shooting through the gap without looking into the eyes of the other driver, or the other braking and allowing the opposing driver to pass through.

But sometimes there is the game of 'you first', 'no, you', 'no I insist, you first' etc.  A situation that can also occur when two people are walking down a long corridor and one steps right and the other left and  there ensues the chest to chest chicken dance where two intelligent human beings cannot pass each other in a 3 metre wide corridor.

The situation is always resolved, however long it takes, and when it is a gesture is called for to acknowledge the other drivers courtesy - or lack of courtesy.

That gesture is the subject of this blog post.  The gesture takes many forms.

The one finger salute. Right hand gripping wheel in the 12 o'clock position.  Index finger raised.  This indicates that you acknowledge the other person's presence, and that you thank them for letting you through the gap, but not so much that you are prepared to put any effort into it beyond flexing a single tendon.
The multi fingered, hand-still-on-wheel, salute.  A variation on the one finger salute but with a little more effort.  The multi-fingered hand-still-on-wheel salute requires some effort but only just enough that show your appreciation of the other drivers actions.  It also leaves enough to room to say 'you could have slammed on the bloody brakes and let me through you selfish git'.
The casual wave.  Right hand off the wheel, fingers very slightly curled.  No eye contact.  The driver who performs the casual wave thinks they are the embodiment of Steve McQueen.  Other drivers exist and they need to be acknowledged but in the coolest way possible.  The casual waver will wear sunglasses.
The single Jazz Hand.  One hand, palm facing ahead, all fingers outstretched as far as possible.  The driver performing the single Jazz Hand is slightly mental and may be coming down from a long session on drugs.  Avoid.
The enthusiastic wave.  Often accompanied by a manic smile.  The driver performing an enthusiastic wave is either on drugs or thinks the oncoming driver is someone famous.  Or they may just be a very happy person who would like to spread joy to their fellow drivers.  It may also be the case that they have been taken hostage and are trying to communicate to you that the passenger has a gun pointing at their stomach.  Whatever the case the enthusiastic waver needs to be treated with caution and should be disappearing in your rear view mirror as soon as possible.
The can't be arsed to do this but I will if only so you won't kill me wave.  This driver still wishes they were in bed, or that they really wish they didn't have to pick the kids up or they hate their car, themselves and their wife/husband.  This wave says 'alright I acknowledge your presence.  Now go away and leave me alone.'
The claw.  Pretty rare.  Upper arm at 90° to the body.  Forearm upright.  Palm upright.  Fingers curled into a claw.  I do not know why anyone would perform the claw.  But some do.  Maybe they have arthritis.
The truckers horn.  Forearm raised just to one side of the body.  Fingers curled round an imaginary air-horn wire which is then pulled down.  Driver either is a trucker or has watched Convoy too many times.
The thumbs up.  Driver is a children's television presenter.
Two fingers.  The opposite of Churchill's V for Victory salute.  The driver doesn't like that you have kept him waiting and he is showing his displeasure at you for doing so.  Usually accompanied by a wheelspin partially to add to his outward display of disapproval but also to make sure he gets out of your way fast so you don't get out of your car and belt him.
The middle finger.  Variation on the two fingers theme.  Usually performed by teenagers or Americans.
The nod.  This is a friendly biker gesture and cannot really be seen from inside a car but if the driver is also a biker they will often forget they are not on the bike and will nod.  If the opposing driver is not a biker they will merely think the nodder is mad and speed off quickly.  If the other driver is a biker they may also nod but will get a little warm feeling and maybe prickles on the back of the neck that they have just been in the presence of another biker, which is A GOOD THING.

Have we missed any?  Which is your favourite gesture?  Let us know via the comments section or twitter @speedmonkeymatt