July 19, 2002

Give'm the Finger In

Give'm the Finger

In my little sojourn down the mountain today, I passed maybe 3-4 other cars, well, trucks. Every single one of them gave me the finger. But then, you'd have to know where I live.

Back when our son was about three yrs old, he and I were out driving the back roads, probably looking for places to take my biology classes for field trips. I did a lot of escapist travel using that excuse back then, the kids often went with me. I recall encountering a slow moving, oncoming truck heading our way somewhere out on the edge of the county. The driver threw up his index finger and thumb, lifting it just slightly but conspicously from the steering wheel. In reply, I did the same thing.

"Who was that, daddy" Nathan asked.
"Just a neighbor" I told him.
"Did you know him?"
"Well, no. I don't think we knew him".
"Then why did he wave, and why did you wave back?"

Good question. I really wasn't sure. It was just what you did, apparently, when you met someone driving country roads. I think I told Nathan that it was the 'neighborly thing to do'. Of course, city people in cars meet their neighbors on their roads; lots and lots of them, all the time. And they do, indeed, sometimes offer the middle finger of recognition. I have seen it many times, but never on a country road.

I think what it boils down to is this: in the country, where people are relatively few, there is the sense that neighbors, even strangers on a country road, will likely be seeing each other again. We are obliged to each other, and acknowledging the passing of a stranger is a good way of saying 'we belong here, so we belong to each other, be seeing ya again'. Is this just an Appalachian phenomenon? Is it accurate to think that this happens on rural roads everywhere? I would like to think so.

Funny thing: Our son is home between college and the World That Comes Next. Even when he is a passenger in the car with me now, I see his index finger and thumb lift at least a little, every time we pass a neighbor. Some old habits die hard, and sometimes, that's a good thing.

Posted by fred1st at July 19, 2002 04:02 PM
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