Etiquette Lesson: Waving in Traffic

I don’t believe in the Mommy Wars. I’ve found, with one or two glaring exceptions, that most adult women are kind people who want to be friendly with others. Sure, we can still be catty when necessary (and, honestly, would we really want to be friends with someone who can’t be catty at all?), but for the most part we’re nice to each other’s faces, and we mean it. I like most people that I meet, unless they give me a reason not to, and I expect the same from them. Even if a mom is a friend of a friend and new to me, I can always find something to bond with her over.

The one time I find that moms are generally not nice is in traffic situations. In fact, I find many of them downright rude. I’m not sure if it’s the relative anonymity that comes with interacting in traffic, or if it has to do with the status afforded by various foreign and domestic luxury SUVs, but if I have to play chicken with one more Lululemon-clad mom in the parking lot of the Lash Lounge, I may stop going back. If I let one more St. Margaret Mary mom wearing aviators and a perfectly messy bun (that you know she worked hard on) in front of me in traffic, and she doesn’t wave back, I may take to my bed in an existential crisis, because honey, you are me and I am you.

We’re all struggling to get our kids to school on time, to coordinate their after-school activities, to get home safely at the end of a long day, so I would appreciate a little human empathy and gratitude when I let your gigantic Lexus SUV make a left turn through two lanes of traffic. I get it. You have a huge domestic SUV. I have a European station wagon. You have a perfectly messy bun. I have a two-day-old blowout. You have your Starbucks frappuccino. I have my Heine Brothers latte. We don’t need to compare our entire resumés here, but I guarantee you your life is a lot like mine (probably slightly less interesting, because you seem super basic, but I’ll give you a pass, if you’ll give me a wave). Seriously. You need to give a thank-you wave.

Let’s talk about the taxonomy of a proper thank-you wave, and when it’s appropriate.

A proper wave starts by raising your right hand right, just as you might when swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You raise your right hand in the middle section of your car, between the two front seats, over the console and just in front of the rearview mirror. You do it right in the middle so the person in front of or behind you can see it, so that there’s no question about whether or not you waved. Once your hand is in the right position, you move it from side to side, the way the Queen of England would. You do it intentionally, not in a lazy or haphazard way. The goal here is to act like you care that someone helped you. You give a real wave, because someone did you a favor and the polite thing to do is to say “thank you.”

When is the wave appropriate? Always. It’s always appropriate. It’s appropriate when someone lets you cut across two lanes of traffic. It’s appropriate when someone lets you in front of her in her lane. It’s appropriate when there’s a question about whose turn it is at a stop sign, or when both of you want the same parking place and the other person concedes. It’s always appropriate. And if you’re not sure about the appropriateness of the situation, wave anyway, because it never hurts to show gratitude.

When in doubt, wave, because it’s always better to have manners that are too good than not good enough.

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