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Life in the Burg: “Why We Wave” Vol. 2 Art. 4

by / Thursday, 01 May 2014 / Published in Leifeld's Blog, Life in the Burg

“Do we know them?” No. “Then why are you doing that?” Not surprising questions from a five year-old. But it didn’t matter if we knew the person or not. In one way or another, we were neighbors. And that’s what mattered.

Thirty years ago, there’s a good chance that I asked my own parents those questions while riding in the backseat of their Pontiac Bonneville. It never failed, just as you could make out the number eight on their license plate, my dad’s finger raised from the top of the steering wheel. That is, as long as we were in the country. For some reason though, those “neighborly” rules didn’t apply when we hit Grand Island’s city limits.

Here we are, decades later … my third county of residence. I’m reminded of what it meant to be greeted by oncoming cars as a young kid.  Around here, if you have a 23-county plate, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll receive a one-, two-, or maybe a full five-finger wave. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a solid head nod. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I’m waving, and other times I can’t help but smile. Can this simple gesture be a sign that it’s still possible to be courteous and well mannered?

“You do realize that you’re waving to everyone, right?” my sister chided me once while walking her dogs near her home in Kearney. Immediately embarrassed, I lowered my hand and changed the subject. Clearly this is not something that people with nine-county plates do.

After that incident, I have paid better attention of which cars wave and which ones don’t. Granted, I spend over 90 percent of my time in a Boone County-plated vehicle, but it was worth a try. First, I can tell you that not a lot of people from Antelope County wave; neither do those from our neighbor to the East. Rather than keeping my hand down, I often feel the urge to be overly enthusiastic instead. Maybe they need to feel a little more welcomed to our neck of the woods. And it’s fun to confuse people.

Furthering my investigation into this seemingly traditional gesture, I looked to Google for answers. All I found was why motorcyclists wave. To them, it’s this sign of brotherhood. That’s respectable, but what about the rest of us?

My assumption is that people have been offering this friendly gesture forever. It’s just that over time, and as people become more and more enwrapped in their own lives, we forget to be courteous to our neighbors. So let’s make it stick in Boone County, or at least in Petersburg. The next time you’re out, either in a car or by foot, pay attention to your own style of waving. Maybe it’s time to rethink your approach. Get creative. Be enthusiastic.  Use that moment to reflect Petersburg’s sense of community.

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