Walk with me through this scenario:

You’re driving along, minding your own business, obeying the speed limits and whatnot. Suddenly, a driver next to you cuts into your lane out of nowhere, forcing you to slow down. Of course, your first thought is that he/she is a total jerk and you quickly glance around for a sign of a police car—but they’re never around when these things happen. Or, your first thought isn’t a thought, but a carefully-chosen finger.

But what happens next might change the way you feel, because the driver could either be: type one, continue on driving and cutting people off with no regard for safety; or type two, wave a thank you and continue on.

This is the point where you’re over the initial anger and you start instead using the logical part of your brain to pick apart the driver in front of you. In the first situation, you think to yourself that he must be a total tool who could care less about anyone else but himself. If you’re imaginative, you might also throw in that he has no real friends in life and can’t hold a job for longer than a week. You don’t forgive him.

In the second situation, however, the wave usually means one of two things: “I’m sorry” or “Thank you!” Either way, you immediately feel a bit ashamed for acting so rashly. You suppose the other driver has to change lanes quickly so they don’t miss their turn or that the now-friendly driver is late for an important something-or-other. You forgive and forget about it.

In the short year and half that I’ve been driving regularly around Oregon, I’ve encountered a large number of type 1 drivers, and am pleasantly surprised (almost shocked) whenever I encounter the rare type 2 in the wild. Although it’s true that many more people wave thanks/sorry while driving back at home, when I’ve gone back, I noticed those numbers steadily declining as well.

Does this suggest that society is moving away from politeness and toward a selfish disregard of their fellow man? Perhaps. And perhaps we just don’t think about saying thank you as much. It’s hard to say. Either way, it couldn’t hurt to be a little friendlier on the road and step up to the plate as a proud type 2 driver.

So whether you’re from Oregon, Hawaii or Mars (yes, I understand there are also locations in between) our roads would only benefit from spreading a little aloha—a simple hand wave is all it takes.


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