Do the Wave
Help save a dying gesture
by Allen Delaney
I heard frantic knocking on my front door and opened it to find a small, round-faced kid staring at me. His eyes magnified by thick glasses, he held his distraught mother’s hand.
“I know I haven’t spoken to you since you told my son that our family had to become Amish so he could get a horse,” [Vol. xiv, No. 16: April 20] she said. “But I’m desperate. My husband is on a business trip and my other neighbor is on vacation. You’re the only one home. Can you look after Wendell for an hour or so? I have to check on my sister. She was in a car accident and is on her way to the hospital.”
Before I could tell her that I had to go grocery shopping, she was roaring down the street heading to the emergency room. Being child free, I was unprepared how to handle a five-year-old who could throw out more questions in less time than the presidential press corp.
“Can we play a game?” Wendell asked.
I stared down at him and said we had to play The Grocery Game.
“How do you play that?” he asked.
I told him it involved going to the grocery store, buying food and coming home.
“Aw,” he said. “I do that with my Mom almost every day. She calls it a pain.”
“Wendell,” I said, “all I have are a stale Pop-Tarts and a can of beer, so I have to go shopping. Let’s go.” I tacked a note on my door as to our whereabouts in case his mother returned while we were gone.
The gnome climbed into my pickup truck, I strapped him and myself in and we began our journey. On the shopping adventure, Wendell requested to know the origin of each item I placed in the cart.
“Where does tuna fish come from?” he asked.
“A can.” I answered. “The same goes for olives, soup and most vegetables.”
On the ride home, we passed a truck driven by an elderly fellow. The senior gave me a slight wave and I waved back.
“Who’s that?” Wendell asked.
“I have no idea.”
“Then why did he wave at you?” he queried.
“I suppose he was just being friendly,” I told him.
Another car passed us.
“Why didn’t he wave at you?” was Wendell’s next question.
“Because,” I said, “he was a young guy. For some reason, young guys don’t wave at anyone.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“I guess they never saw their parents wave at anyone,” I said, explaining that it’s something that gets passed down through observation. I told Wendell that years ago when Calvert County was a small farming community, everyone knew everyone else, so when people passed, they would wave to each other. After a while, they just started waving to everyone. Now with more people moving here and leading busier lives, everyone is in too much of a hurry to be friendly. But the older guys, who have been waving to folks for years, continue to do so.
“It’s a nice habit,” I informed the five-year-old.
Suddenly, Wendell flailed his arms as if he was trying to signal a low-flying aircraft.
“What’s wrong? Are you having a seizure?” I shouted as I pulled the truck over.
The tyke stopped his flailing to say, “I was waving at the car that just passed us.”
“Wendell,” I explained, “that is not how you wave. That’s how you give a middle-aged guy a heart attack. A wave is a subtle gesture. Sometimes your hand never leaves the wheel. You simply raise your fingers like this, leaving the palm of your hand on the wheel. Other times all you do is raise your hand and slightly move your forearm. You’re not directing planes.”
Wendell watched my waving demonstration intently as we pulled into my driveway. Fortunately his mother was waiting for us. She told me that the extent of her sister’s injuries was a sprained toe and thanked me for watching her son.
As she backed out of my driveway, I watched her son in the front passenger seat raise his forearm ever so slightly and give me the wave. I waved back, hoping I had instilled a lifelong habit.
Allen Delaney’s comic reflections have tickled Bay Weekly readers since the turn of the millennium. You last laughed at “With These Gas Prices, I May Learn to Sail” (Vol. xiv, No 35: Aug 31).