By Dan Pool
I notice driving around that people never wave any more on the roads. At least not with the gusto that people used to.
Just a decade ago down south people waved at cars, particularly if you came across them in a yard, walking, mowing grass or generally out-of-doors. You could count on anyone outside throwing up a friendly hand gesture if a car went by them in a yard on any off-the-beaten-path route.
The same was true of backroads driving: if you meet anyone on a dirt roads in Pickens County you definitely waved and might even stop and talk -- custom demanded it.
When I was a student at UGA back in the 1980s, I amazed one of my fraternity brothers from New Jersey by exchanging waves with an elderly man on a porch when we drove by on an Athens street. The “exchange student” from Jersey first asked if I knew that guy and then why I had waved. I told him that I’d never seen him before in my life but it’s just what we did in the rural South. Apparently they didn’t do that in northern metro areas.
I also recall one former candidate for sole commissioner who I refused to even consider voting for as he would never wave when you met him on the road. He wasn’t from here and probably had no idea that if you are running for office, you better lift a hand when you pass people of the county you seek to govern.
Maybe Pickens has grown too big for us to wave all the time and with so many cars on the road it would tire your elbow out. (Of course, everyone might just be too busy texting and may not have a free hand to lift.)
Besides the sheer number of waves a cruise down formerly rural routes like Jerusalem Church Road would require today, I also believe that we don’t greet each other on the road because we don’t feel like we know anyone we are meeting.
When the wave was commonplace, it would not have been true to say that everybody literally knew everybody on our roads. But chances were that a decade ago even if you didn’t know the person’s name, you probably had some connection to them – mutual friends, friend of relatives, relative of friends. One way or the other, you were most likely connected to anyone you met on the roads or saw in the yards you passed.
Now the county has reached a size that people figure they probably don’t know anyone they are meeting and don’t recognize the person mowing grass. It’s a new age of imagined anonymity.
But there are still those who wave. Some people in certain cars, Jeeps for example, continue the tradition. People with vintage cars are also apt to throw up a hand in congenial hello. You’re cruising the streets on your way to work or are on to yet another errand and you see another car of the same make and model - the driver waves to you and you return the wave. Everyone’s day just got a little better because of it. It’s the small things in life. And a tradition that should continue.
But let’s keep in mind we are still small town America - with our time-honored code of community, of safety and civic pride. Friendliness still matters. And a wave is just one way of expressing it.