Being raised in the countryside afforded me the opportunity to learn about things that city folk are rarely exposed. For example, the two finger wave. I’m not certain where or when this wave came about but my grandfather, Harvey Wellington Stone suspected it was during the 1920’s when the automobile was first invented.
Unlike today, roads in the 1920’s were dirt and filled with holes and rocks. If a driver dared take his hands of the steering wheel he risked injury or even death… Further, he reckoned that when folks passed each other on the road they waved to one another in a neighborly fashion because they were brought up proper and they realized the guy they happened to be waving to may be the same guy who helps them pull their rig out of the ditch next week.
So, keeping your hands on the wheel was clearly of paramount importance as was the notion of being “neighborly”. Instead of a full blown hand wave, a cautious driver simply lifted his index or his index and middle finger to acknowledge other drivers.
There are several subtle salutations a person from the country uses while managing his rig but I would like to explain 3 of them:
The first is the “One Finger, Hey”. The One Finger Hey is utilized when a driver passes oncoming traffic but is uncertain of who is in the vehicle. But, for good measure, he raises his index finger to acknowledge the other driver. This negates being labeled a snob just in case he was known to you.
The second and most used salutation is the “Two Finger Yow!”. The Two Finger Yow is utilized for oncoming vehicles where the driver is known to you but not necessarily a close friend. He may be an acquaintance or a neighbor. Depending upon the area a neighbor may be someone who resides within a 15 mile radius. When two fingers are raised a country boy/girl is simply saying, “Yow! Hey Neighbor”. It is important to note that the “One Finger, Hey” and the “Two Finger Yow!” almost always take place using the right hand. There are some exceptions. For example: If it is beer drinking season and the oncoming vehicle has caught you in the middle of a raised can…then it is customary to raise the index and middle finger of the left hand while the steering wheel is managed by one or both knees.
The third and last salutation I will discuss is the “WTH Chin Up and Two Finger Yow” combination. This wave is reserved for closer friends or people whom you owe money. You begin with the two fingered Yow and as the vehicle approaches within 30 feet your chin raises approximately 3-5 inches depending upon the relationship trying to be conveyed. For close friends a 5 inch raise of the chin indicates, “What The Hell?! You haven’t called me for a week and you ain’t been at the watering hole for two!....Son of a bitch”. A three inch raise of the chin is displayed for those whom we owe money as if to say, “What The Hell?! I’ve been looking all over town for you in order to pay you your damn money…you prick…hope you get stuck in the combine”.
Since I’ve been in Argentina, I have noticed a severe lack of civil hand gestures to neighbor types. Now, there are plenty of hand gestures here….most are imported from Italy but few are neighborly and most are flown in reaction to how other drivers conduct their vehicles.
So, I have decided to import the One finger, Hey…the Two Finger, Yow!...and the WTH Chin Up and two finger Yow combination into Argentina. So far, I have had little success. Wish me luck.