Red Lodge, Montana


Corey Thompson author photoAwww, shucks! Montana is just a doggone friendly place! We know that because, unlike the rush of urban life, where people dash from one place to another, avoiding eye contact, we rural and small-town Montanans go out of our way to greet one another. We say good morning, we comment on the weather, and we wave at each other as we drive in cars. It’s just downright good etiquette.

But let’s think about The Wave for a minute. When do you wave, and how do you wave? Most folks do it instinctively, but after years of careful observation and numerous conversations with people, it appears that there are actually three different kinds of driving waves: the Acknowledgment, the Recognition, and the Regional/Special Occasion waves.

Acknowledgement Waves

Truck waveThese are done when the waver and the wavee don’t really know one another, but just in case they do and don’t want to appear rude, or are simply Montana polite, they wave to simply acknowledge one another. There are several different types of Acknowledgement Waves:

  1. The Windshield. Hands are on the wheel, and one hand, either the left or the right, is raised up flat, palm out, and a windshield wiper motion is executed back and forth, just once in each direction.
  2. The Howdy One. Hands are on the wheel, and one hand raises the pointer finger upright and gives it one, inside to outside, windshield wiper motion.
  3. The Howdy Two. Like the Howdy One, hands are on the wheel, and one hand raises the pointer finger and the middle finger in one windshield wiper.
  4. The Farmer. This is a variation on the Howdy One, but instead of a windshield wiper, the pointer finger raises up away from the wheel and then quickly back to the wheel.
  5. The Ma’am. Again both hands are on the wheel, and one hand, with either the pointer finger alone, or the pointer finger and the middle finger together, is raised to the either the middle or the side of the forehead, and one salute is given towards the oncoming car.

Recognition Waves

Recognition waves are given when the waver truly knows the other driver and wants to say hello.

  1. The Enthusiastic. This is a variation on the Windshield Acknowledgement Wave, but with a number of quick windshields added.
  2. The Hey I See You. A more laid-back, casual form of the Recognition Wave, this one can be either a modified form of the Recognition Enthusiastic with just a couple of quick windshields, or, with hands still on or near the wheel, extend all four fingers and then quickly stadium wave them several times.
  3. The Thumbs Up Wave. With four fingers on the wheel, simply raise one thumb in a universal gesture of good will.

Regional and Special Occasion Waves

These are always fun to interpret. This is an incomplete list of waves seen in Carbon County in various seasons:

  1. Everyone knows the Queen’s Parade Wave. The royalty will look to the left at about ten o’clock, and then with the right arm extended across the upper body and to the left, with a cupped palm, three gentle figure eights are drawn in the air. The hand is gracefully returned to join the other hand in the lap, the gaze is shifted to the right, and the process is reversed on the other side. It’s a classic.
  2. The Rodeo is a variation of the Queen’s Parade Wave, but only because the wavers are rodeo royalty. Its hand signals are similar to the Acknowledgment Ma’am Wave, but it’s a lot quicker because it’s executed on a galloping horse. This wave has the rider circling the arena several times, one hand on the reins, while the other arm is raised to the side of the forehead facing the spectators. The forearm and hand goes back and forth, from the forehead, extending out to the spectators at ten o’clock, elevated well above the horse’s ear.
  3. The Little Rascals. Extend one hand out about 12-18 inches in front of your face, fingers spread with palm out, and do a circular motion. This is usually done counter-clockwise, but the size of the circles drawn is a matter of personal expression.
  4. Italian Chou is actually a backwards “come-hither” wave — palm down, with all four fingers moving and the thumb sticking straight out.
  5. The Hawaiian Wave, also called the Surfer Dude Wave, has the pointer, middle, and ring fingers cupped into the palm, the thumb and pinkie are up right, and the wrist is wiggled vigorously back and forth.
  6. Like the Hawaiian, the Texan Wave, or Hook ‘em Horns Wave, has two fingers extended upright but this time it’s the index and pinkie. The other fingers and the thumb are curled together next to the palm. (Also known colloquially as the Shout at the Devil Wave.)
  7. The Papal Wave. This has been known to occur among hikers and snowshoers with poles as well as, of course, the pope. The staff, or pole, is raised in an up and down gesture of acknowledgement, usually accompanied by a head nod.
  8. The A-hole Wave doesn’t happen very often in Montana since we are so friendly, but be aware of its existence. The thumb and pointer finger are curled together in a circle, and the remaining three fingers are wiggled towards the offender.
  9. Don’t forget the “You-just-cut-me-off” Salute! The pointer, ring, and pinky fingers are curled into the palm, with the middle finger extended prominently. Often accompanied by honking.

The above waves are primarily driver-to-driver waves, but all have slight modifications for driver/pedestrian encounters. For example, most polite pedestrians will wave a “thank you” to drivers who stop to allow them to cross the street. Usually this is just a quick Acknowledgement Windshield or just an arm raised up and down towards the driver; the driver will, in turn, probably execute one of the forms of Acknowledgement Waves, or even a Recognition Wave if the situation calls for it. Drivers also appreciate dog walkers who control their pets as they pass, and will show it with their own personal form of Acknowledgement Wave.

Yep, we sure are friendly folks! Next time you give or receive a wave, pay attention to which one you’re doing or seeing. And the next time you see this writer, please — stick to Acknowledgement or Recognition Waves.

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1 Response

  1. You should make another one of these for gestures not in a vehicle!