The Friendly Wave

by Michelle Efros
Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

The Friendly Wave

When I moved to Boston from the less traffic-filled Midwest, all I heard was, “Boston drivers are terrible, be careful on the roads!” I lived in Boston for four years while in college. But I didn’t need a car then, because Boston’s subway and bus systems took me anywhere I needed to go. When I graduated, moved to the suburbs, and got a “real” job, I had to buy a car. I approached sharing the roads with the crazy drivers I’d heard about with much apprehension.

I found the stories were all true! I constantly get honked at, cut off, swerved around, and yelled at. Very seldom am I actually doing something wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve almost been in an accident because people refuse to yield to me when I have the right of way. Almost too late, I realize I have to swerve if I want my car to stay intact. And I’ve only been driving here six months!

I learned how to drive in a friendlier environment, so I’ve always been in the habit of letting people in front of me if they need to turn or pull out. Because people here are rarely considerate enough to do help other drivers that way, it takes other people a few seconds to realize that yes, I *am* trying to let them in. Then they usually screech out in front of me without even an acknowledging wave.

In my home environment, the thank-you wave is standard driving courtesy. Having my kindness go unacknowledged had been so discouraging, I was on the brink of giving up on trying to be nice. I thought I’d just zoom along with the rest of the cars, without a thought for anyone else.

Then one day on my way home from work I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, just a mile from home. I was tired, hungry, and anxious to get home. As I inched along a residential road, I watched a guy stuck in his driveway, trying to back out with no one pausing to let him in.

He had been sitting there waiting for at least 15 minutes when I came up to the driveway. I stopped so he had space to back out, expecting the usual lack of acknowledgment. But as soon as his car straightened out in front of me, he looked at me in his rearview mirror and gave a huge wave, so enthusiastic that his entire body shook back and forth! He made me smile after a long hard day at work.

I realized that just because people in Boston aren’t usually nice to each other on the roads doesn’t mean that I should give up and quit being helpful to other drivers. This exceptionally friendly person reminded me that in the midst of a seemingly unfeeling crowd, it’s still valuable to be considerate and kind.

Originally published as HeroicStories #223 on 6 August 2001

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