What Ever Happened to the Courtesy Wave?

Has anyone else noticed that the courtesy wave seems to be largely a thing of the past? You know the wave–that nice hand gesture you give when someone lets you merge in heavy traffic or when they slow down enough to let you make your turn out of the drive way in front of them. Time was when you’d do the neighborly thing and cut another driver a break, and she or he would give you a little “thanks neighbor” hand gesture in return–yet another by-gone nicity of the social contract. Now you get bupkis. You slow down and inconvenience yourself to let someone in your lane and they can’t even flash you some fingers in return. There are the times when you make eye contact even. You’re like, “I thought we had a relationship here.” Sigh.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it honestly makes me feel like a chump.

(bewinca’s finger photo used with permission

22 thoughts on “What Ever Happened to the Courtesy Wave?”

  1. I still courtesy wave – I even have to put my window down to do it, since my back window has dark tint.

    When I don’t receive a courtesy wave from someone else, I give them a courtesy finger.

  2. I still get the wave about half the time, and I am always sad when I don’t. (It should go without saying, but I ALWAYS give the wave when someone does me a good turn.)

  3. The courtesy wave was supplanted by one hand on the horn and the other waving a single finger long ago. I think it started in Glendale first in the mid-90’s and quickly every assholian grabbed hold of the idea and it spread quickly.

    There is a lot to be said for finding surface streets to get around and avoid that whole hassle. Or a subway…shit I forgot we don’t have those yet.

  4. I still give the wave, and most of the time will actually say “Thank you” if only to myself in the car.

    When I let someone in, I always look for the wave. If it is forthcoming, I’ll happily wave back. If it’s not, rather than saying “Thank you” in my car, I say “Jack ass.”

  5. I’m a huge proponent of the courtesy wave. I’ll even try to get a paw off my handlebars when I’m cycling to hail a motorist for a kindness. But mostly in those somewhat wobbly situations all I can muster is the far less visible courtesy head bob/nod, sometimes augmented with a mouthed “thank you!” I probably look like a tard in motion, but still it’s something.

  6. I still do the courtesy ‘thank you’ wave, well, because I’m showing thanks for the kindness of someone else. Seems to be the right thing to do.

  7. It’s hard to give a courtesy wave with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a cell phone. What? That’s against the law, you say? Even in the Valley? They should make an announcement or something.

    I probably get a courtesy wave 7/10 times that I let someone in. The other 3 times, I gun it, and tailgate their ass.

  8. I generally see the wave on surface streets when someone is pulling out of a gas station, but never when merging on the freeway anymore.. I occasionally try to remember to do it. @Burns – If someone doesn’t wave, I’ll mutter, ‘you’re welcomed, jackass.”

  9. I think one of the most rewarding courtesy waves you can receive is when you’re driving on the freeway and see a motorcycle splitting lans in your rearview, you slide over a bit in your lane to allow them extra room to pass by and they take their left hand, drop it down the side a bit and give you the peace sign! Extra bonus for patched-up Harley riders.

  10. Good topic…. I actually get pissed for some reason when i dont get the wave from people and yell(in the safety of my rolled up windowed car),” i didnt have to let you in” or “what makes you think you are better than us!”. I have no idea why.:)But I feel better

  11. You read my mind! I’ve wondered whether Californians just didn’t DO the wave but then sometimes, out of the blue, I get a wave from someone and I have to second-guess my earlier conclusions! I, being from the Midwest originally, always wave especially if I cut someone off. =)

  12. i’d have to agree with kint’s comment…it’s much more common on surface streets when there’s some eye-contact involved. although i have noticed a lot more people flashing their hazards a few times in lieu of a courtesy wave. used to be something only truckers did, but it seems to be spreading among the masses. otherwise, you’re just gonna have to be satisfied with doing something decent for your fellow commuters whether they appreciate it or not. it’s not worth the blood pressure of getting all butt-hurt by their lack of manners. but if they have their blinker on (i know, i know that’s like 1/3 of the time, but it happens) and you’re letting them in, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. do you really need to be thanked?

  13. I knew it was the midwesterners cutting people off.

    I give the wave too. Which makes me want to ask–if we all say we’re giving the wave, who the hell is out there NOT giving the wave? Or do we think we give it, but then not give it when others expect it?

  14. OK Scott, you got me on the motorcycles. When I see them coming I always scoot to give them a little extra breathing room and most give a wave.

    Today for the first time in longer than I can remember I actually experienced “wave”. My daughter was driving (permit – license in 2 months or so) near Santa Anita Mall. It was a funky sort of 3 way meeting of aisles and another young girl and Kari met. Both hesitated and the other driver just waved her through.

    Shortly thereafter we’re stopped at a light signalling for a right. To our left was a big truck blocking any view so we had to sit. The old fart in the beat up mercede’s behind us kept inching closer and honked his horn the whole time. Sorta deflated the niceness of the wave a few minutes earlier. When I turned around to see what his problem was. He gave me a finger. I blew him a kiss and winked. I may get shot someday doing that but I refused to respond with anger.

    Sigh…politeness doesn’t happen enough.

  15. I love the courtesy wave. It restores my faith in humanity. I give it hoping that the recipient will “pass it forward”. What I find especially ironic is that the biggest offenders are the Moms in my ‘burb who don’t wave, nod or smile are the ones with the: Jesus fish, not of this world stickers, stick figure families,flower crosses and other assorted Christian crap on their rides. Gimme a break. That is why this Mom is a Pastafarian and has a FSM glued to the back of my Honda.

  16. I haven’t gotten a wave in weeks…

    I try to always flash a peace sign when someone actually lets me in, which is also increasingly rare…

    Just this morning I paused to let two cars trapped behind a left-hand-turner into my lane, didn’t get waves, and was then cut off by one of the same drivers 4 blocks later.


  17. I always wave. When I flash a peace sign I make sure to rotate my hand so they don’t think it is just one finger sticking up!

    Can’t remember the last time I got a wave, or even a trucker flashing his lights.

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