If you live in Boundary County, wave!

by Don Bartling
| February 27, 2020 1:00 AM

“The road may be beautiful or ugly, it may be easy or hard, smooth or rough — it doesn’t matter; what matters most is where the road will take you, enjoy the journey and wave!”

— Anonymous

You know you’re on a friendly rural road when folks wave at you as you drive by.

I’m not talking about waving at friends or family. Nor am I referring to the kind of waving between colleagues that truck drivers share. The waves I mean are the ones thrown out to complete strangers encountered on the road or as they pass by the home place.

Waving at strangers is endangered behavior these days. The number of places where it’s practiced appears to be getting scarce.

A friend in Boundary County waves at the drivers of passing vehicles more often than anyone else I know. I’ve been with him on cross-country drives and watched him cast dozens of waves that were not returned.

I think people wave just hoping they will get a positive response.

Waving is a friendly gesture on the road. A friendly wave is a sign of civility. People who wave at each other acknowledge a common bond: we’re all in this together. Those who wave are more likely to help one another and work together, and less likely to cheat and cause each other harm, or so most people believe. Some people encourage the practice of waving as a way of building community spirit.

Why some folks wave and others don’t is partly a matter of population. The bigger the town and the heavier the traffic, the less likely it is to see a wave. There are just too many strangers.

Speed is also a factor. Folks in the fast lane rarely wave because they don’t have time. Before you can lift your hand, they’re gone.

And freeways, of course, discourage waving altogether. Divided highways isolate us, each to our own vehicle. They are designed to keep us from running into each other, but they also prevent us from recognizing each other.

But out in the mountains and valleys of Idaho waving comes pretty easy. When you’ve been alone on a road for awhile another vehicle can be a welcome sight. Where there are fewer of us it’s easier to see and appreciate how much we need each other.

Two-lane blacktop country roads, whether they cut across the fields or mountain valleys of Idaho or beneath the big skies of Montana, seem to encourage a slower, friendlier style of travel. And in the summer, it helps, too, if you drive an old pickup with the windows down and one arm resting on the door.

Whether waving at strangers will help restore courtesy to the roads or make our communities more neighborly is hard to say, but it’s worth a wave!

Enjoy the outdoors, go for a drive in Boundary County and don’t be surprised if the folks wave at you when they drive by.