For someone who lived most of her life in large urban centres, there is a phenomenon that occurs in the Maritimes that takes some getting used to. Actually, it’s quite possible that if you are not born with this behaviour genetically implanted in your DNA, you never can fully embrace this aspect of rural life.
Let me take you back to May, 2002. I’ve just arrived with my parents at their summer home on Pugwash Point. It’s been ten years since my last visit to Nova Scotia and I’m arriving directly from Vancouver. Getting settled into the house requires several trips into the village for supplies which means driving by our neighbour’s house. Gary is outside working in his yard and every time my mother and I drive by, he waves. Mum always waves back.
“Do we have to wave every time we drive by?” I finally ask.
“Yes,” my mother answers.
I’ve been traumatized ever since.
Fast-forward four years. Gary sets me up on a blind date with a friend who picks me up from the house on Pugwash Point and drives us to Springhill for supper. He waves at every vehicle we pass. I wasn’t nervous about the date with a man I barely knew but now I was freaked out by the fact that he seemed to know every single person in the county. What had I gotten myself into?
We all know the answer to that and although living here permanently hasn’t reduced my anxiety about the expectation of waving to everyone, it has allowed me to make a study of it. As far as I can tell, there are three distinct waves that make up this Maritime phenomenon.
The Gary Wave: This is the most physically demanding of all the waves because it involves throwing both arms up into the air and flinging them side to side. Now, upon seeing someone executing this wave properly, you might assume he is in some distress. If Gary were up to his waist in water, you’d assume he was drowning. If there were flames shooting out of his pants, you’d assume he was on fire. But since Gary is standing in his driveway with a big smile on his face, you realize he is waving (and possibly practicing some dance moves). The good thing is you only have to respond with a waggle of your fingers.
The Dwayne (or Bob or Ron or Paul or...) Wave: This is the most common wave and used, as far as I can tell, exclusively by men driving trucks. It involves the lifting of two fingers from the steering wheel, just barely an inch, holding for a brief moment then laying them back down on the steering wheel. Repeat as often as required. My observations have revealed that men tend to identify vehicles rather than drivers which may explain why so many men wave at me when I’m driving my husband’s truck.
The Nicole is the third wave and this is the one usually employed by women. Properly executed, it suggests the driver is squealing, “omigod, hi,hi,hi!” as she waves. Starting from its grip on the steering wheel, the wrist flings back and up then the hand waves back and forth quickly. It is very friendly and enthusiastic; could be considered a version of The Gary toned down for safe driving.
Some people take waving very seriously. They want to receive as much as they give. A friend of mine recently met up with a woman who said she waves every time she sees my friend walking her dog.
“But you don’t wave back!” she admonished.
“I have a hard time seeing people behind a windshield,” my friend replied, “and I don’t identify people by their vehicle.”
“Oh, well, then, I’ll toot when I drive by so you know it’s me and can wave back.”
Thereby adding a fourth type even though technically it’s not a wave: A Toot occurs when one is walking and someone driving by uses his or her horn. It is usually followed by a wave. Hearing a Toot means you know the person in the vehicle very well (except in Vancouver, where someone tooting means you are about to be run over). The Toot is usually done gently unless your initials are Randy Smith; then you lay on your truck horn right as you pass me walking the dog so that I jump four feet off the ground and land head-first in the ditch.
That’s one way of getting a wave out of me: I’ll be waving frantically for help. Let’s call that one The Randy.