Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Just to Courteous to Give Courteousy Wave

Vroooom, vrooom, vrooom, Shrump. Rush rush. Cut. Cut. Go.
Vroooom, vrooom, vrooom, Shrump. Rush rush. Cut. Cut. Go.

This is the best I could onomatopoeia-ically describe the sound of me getting cut off. Twice. Normally, cutting someone off is viewed as both a threat to life and adequate driving skills. However, in this case, I'm actually okay with the situation. Why? Because the cutters made certain to shoot me a courtesy wave and ameliorate the situation.

For those who have never touched an automobile before, here is the background on a courtesy wave. In the world of cars, when someone does you a solid, something that saves your life in some way, like letting you merge from a ramp—thus preventing you from smashing into those big yellow barrels that I can only assume contain some sort of fuel and accelerant that would explode like it's in a mid-90s era light gun game. When situations like that occur, the solid-receiver is expected to throw up a wave to courteously let the other driver know they’re giving respect. It also lets them say “I’m an idiot, thanks” without having to verbalize it.
Guy giving courtesy wave
Courtesy wave, driver lives.

Not only are courtesy waves courteous, they've also come to be expected. If you don't do one, bad things are likely to happen. The case of William S. Brooks is proof positive of the power of the courtesy wave. In 1996, he was driving to his home in Olympia, WA, when Brian Michaelson, a 30-year-old roofing contractor cut him off. In Brooks' words, it wasn't a “bad cutoff,” but a cutoff nonetheless. He waited the requisite 7.3 seconds to see if Michaelson did shoot up the courtesy wave.

When no wave came, Brooks proceeded to run Michaelson off and repeatedly shoot him with a crossbow he kept in the back of the cabin of his Ford F-150. After Michaelson expired, Brooks reportedly waved at him before getting back in his car and continuing his drive.

At trial, Brooks took the stand and mentioned the lack of courtesy wave and how this made him feel sad. It took the jury 20 minutes to find him not guilty on all accounts. And that justified jury of course got a strong courtesy wave from Brooks, the purveyor of kindness.

Penguin Courtesy Wave
Thanks, driving penguin!
As Mr. Brooks' case shows, the courtesy wave has much power on the road and in the minds of feeble-minded juries. But it seems to be relegated to only driving or biking sorts of situations. I'd like to see the wave crawl out of the car ghettos and apply it to other parts of life.

“Oops, sorry I Ponzi schemed you (wave),” - Bernie Madoff.
“I'll get you in your dreams (wave),” Freddy Krueger—made doubly scary because the claw hand is doing the wave.
“So long, Mr. William S. Brooks (wave),” - Miranda Michaelson.
“Sorry I needed to go back to the well and make another X-Files movie that really sucked. Cheers,” Chris Carter says very Britishly as he raises his right hand in a conciliatory fashion. Apology accepted Mr. X-Files, just don't do it again.

While the courtesy wave has courtesy in the title, it's really a common expectation. If you don't do it, nobody likes you and you're a horrible person. Please, always courtesy wave, it's the right thing to do.

So feel free to vroom and shrump on the road, just make sure to do it courteously.

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