As I sat in traffic on highway 101 on the way to a dentist appointment in nearby Santa Rosa last Sunday, I had an epiphany. While I was brushing my teeth in the bumper to bumper traffic, I looked ahead of me and noticed a driver was trying to merge into my lane but no one was willing to give this innocent man a break. Feeling kindhearted, I stopped and allowed him in ahead of me. But what did I get in return for this polite gesture? Nothing. He pulled in like I didn’t even exist. The man in the green sedan with the slicked back hair and the white tank top gave me no friendly thank you wave, not to mention even the slightest nod. He went merrily on his way and selfishly ignored me, the complete stranger who just put his needs first. Now I was livid. I found myself directly behind him until the traffic began to move again for what seemed like seconds later. I kept on his bumper at 70 miles per hour for a minute or so, switched into the slow lane, passed him, gave him a nasty look, the middle finger, then swooped right back in front of him in the fast lane, and slowed my speed to 60 miles per hour. Although I was in the wrong by driving recklessly, my epiphany was that all of this, and many other instances of road rage, could easily be prevented with a simple thank you wave.
An easy thank you wave every once in a while would avoid road rage, in turn averting accidents and saving lives. How hard is it really to simply extend your hand, open your fingers, and give a small rotation of the wrist? It’s not. It’s so easy. I always make sure to give the thank you wave because when I receive one, it is one of the greatest feelings I could ever be given from such a simple gesture. It’s the best when a rugged man gives you a thank you wave because he simply lifts two fingers coolly off the steering wheel and keeps his eyes on the road, but a floppy-wristed wave from a soccer mom always does the job also. Also, I feel so cool when I receive a thank you wave- I feel like I’m just another experienced driver on the road, with the approval of all the adults, which I don’t receive off the road because I’m a known troublemaker. A simple thank you wave can spread joy to other drivers, can brighten someone’s day, can prevent accidents, and can convince others to give out even more thank you waves, making the tangle of roadways a safer and happier place.