#23 The thank you wave when you let somebody merge in front of you

Cruising through the streets with our music cranked and our cell phones ringing, it’s sometimes hard to communicate with other drivers sharing the roads. When speeds are high and time’s a ticking, we rely on silent gestures flashed through tinted windows to get our points across.

Now, we all know that The Thank You Wave when you let someone merge in front of you is a great move. It’s highway payment for arriving to your destination one car length later anytime you let someone in.

But it doesn’t end there.

Sure, courtesy wave etiquette may have started with The Thank You Wave, but the magic has spread across other places on the pavement. For instance:

1. The Pre-Wave. As in I’m thanking you because the front tip of my Honda Civic is pointed into your traffic-jammed lane and I know you see me so just let me in. Sure, you can try to avoid eye contact but I’m determined to Pre-Wave you to build up some goodwill.

2. The Apology Wave. Don’t be fooled: even though it looks similar to the thank you wave, the apology wave is typically accompanied by a big grimace instead of a thin-lipped eyebrow raise. Next time you sideswipe a van of teenagers and send them skidding off the highway into a roadside ditch, be sure to offer a heartfelt apology wave.

3. The Go Ahead Wave. You roll up to a four-way Stop at the same time as somebody else and you decide to let them turn first. Maybe they’re a sweet old lady peeking over the wheel or maybe you just want to avoid The World’s Slowest Car Accident. Either way you give them the pleasant, open-palmed Go Ahead Wave, which is sort of how the ladies on The Price Is Right unveil a new solid oak armoire.

Yes, proper courtesy wave etiquette keeps two-way talking alive on our streets and prevents chaos from taking over the highways. So when you let someone in, look out for the Thank You Wave. And when someone lets you in, make sure you smile and wave right back.



Photos from: here and here

39 thoughts on “#23 The thank you wave when you let somebody merge in front of you

      1. Hurry! You’ve got just about 30 days to catch up (including weekends). At a rate of just over 32 posts a day, you’ll be caught up in time for number one..

        Oh, and don’t forget about the books!! (and the calendar!)

    1. Agreed. You can’t love that bad guy. I always wave when people let me in. It feels good to be nice!

      Also, I never let in cars with dark tinted windows because I can’t see them to wave them on or see their thank you wave.

  1. every afternoon at the train station it can take me a little while to get out of the car park because cars just keep going and don’t let me join in the line to get out of the place.

    I make sure every single time someone finally lets me in I give them a big wave & a smile!

    Just yesterday actually. i was waiting for well longer than usual & was getting a little annoyed cause I had to get home asap. Then coming round the corner i see one of my school friends see me (who usually isnt on the train during the week – only occassionaly fridays) & stop just for me! I gave her the biggest smile & thank you ever!

  2. Ok – I’ve just got to say – this WordPress log-in thing has been driving me BONKERS!!

    I’ve written at least 5 comments over the last few days that keep getting erased when I go to submit them and it tells me I need to log-in.. and I can’t log-in for some reason from work, so I’ve been prohibited from commenting recently.. argh!

    Ok – deep breaths.. I’ll figure it out.. but it looks like I’m not the only one that’s been having the problem.. hope it gets fixed soon!

    1. Seriously! WTH is up with the logon thing. I can’t comment after I log on with my phone, only through my mac. But I usually use my phone with no problems. WORDPRESS ====> Get your life together!

      Annywho, I’m all about the prewave.

      *BEGIN RANT*

      Look, I’m coming in and you either can let me gracefully and accept the wave or be a jerk about it. But either way, I’m still coming in.

      I also have an unbridled hatred towards the blowing of car horns. Horns should ONLY be used if you are in immediate danger of getting hit by something. Period. Horns should not be used to voice irritation because something didn’t go your way (you got cut off, someone’s going too slow or whatever lame excuse people use to defend being a jerk)

      *RANT OVER*

      1. Trix, I’m with you totally on your rant, except I do use my horn as a way to say “I see what you did there, and it was unsafe and reckless, and NOT OKAY.” (Yeah, so… uh…maybe if you’re getting honked at a lot, you might want to just check if you are the one being the jerk? maybe? possibly? I mean, probably not, but maybe you could just check?)

        1. I’m a horn honker. I use it to get other driver’s attention, whether I’m just saying “hi”, letting them cut in front of me and they didn’t see me wave or showing my anger becuase they nearly clipped my front end off cutting in front of me when there was clearly no room. Sometimes all it takes is a turn signal and I’ll let people cut, but if they push their way in and act like they are trying to hit my car, I’ll honk, and I’ll honk hard. It is a honk of immediate danger….. if I hadn’t slammed on my breaks, I would have been hit, and with 2 small kids in the car with me, this is unexceptable.
          I also like that there’ s difference between the angry honk and the friendly honk.

  3. Cool. Love this one. I’m just learning to drive and have experience all of these even as a passenger. I actually did the “go ahead” wave as the woman was waiting for me to turn and I’m like “what is she doing? She has the right of way…” so I was doing the “go ahead” wave and she just sat there… So I did the “attention here” wave through my windscreen and then exaggerated the “go ahead” wave… She got the hint, FINALLY.

  4. We’re all going to keep driving on congested roads with everlasting roadworks, so why not just give each other a break. It’s so much less stressful. And if someones a jerk and won’t let you in, it’s his loss, for being a jerk – and you’re gain for letting it go, not getting angry & still only being one car behind. No big deal right?

  5. Ha ha. Love this one. My hubby does the go ahead wave with one finger (not that finger – he’s nice!) and other driver usually doesn’t see him. I think he just doesn’t want to let go of the steering wheel, so he raises one finger and points. It’s sort of like the catcher giving signals to the pitcher in baseball. Then he points a little harder and the other driver still doesn’t see him. Next, I attempt to give the go ahead wave, but most drivers don’t trust the passenger’s wave. Finally he uses his whole hand and by then 5 cars could have gone!

  6. Has our society really fallen so far that a thank you wave is considered an extraordinary act? What is wrong with our civilization these days?

    1. Not an extraordinary act, but one of the “simple little things that make your day better”. That’s the spirit of this list.

  7. I love car communication! The waves, turn signals, flashing lights when it’s too dark to be seen waving “go ahead” inside your car, flashing lights for the opposite side of traffic to warn them that a cop is parked nearby, etc.

    Side story: My brother told me he was once driving when he saw/heard a car angrily honk at another car and that car angrily honked back. Then they honked back and forth at each other, faster and faster, until they both started laughing at their ridiculousness and weren’t angry anymore. I think that’s awesome and I wish I’d been there!

  8. It’s the simple things in life that can just make your day. A simple wave reminds me that we’re all in this together and it’s okay to show a little common courtesy.

  9. There’s also a “Sorry I Almost Hit You Wave” when you change lanes and did not see the car in the next lane OR the same “Sorry I Almost Hit You Wave” when you make a left or right turn on a blinded street and did not see the other car coming. …..or maybe, I’m just the not best driver.

    1. I love your post! You are so brave to wave after an almost-hit-you. Sometimes I wave, but others I’m so embarrassed by my stupidity that I avert my eyes and attempt to slink off, which isn’t easy in a few thousand pounds of metal.

  10. Your apology wave explaination made me laugh.
    I’m not a big fan of people that wave at me when they cut me off. I wasn’t letting you in, buddy, quit waving at me.
    I wave people in all the time. Where I live, traffic basically sucks. You can’t get out of a side road onto the main road unless someone waves you in. There are days where I’d be stuck there for a good 15 minutes before someone lets me out. Then, there are times when I stop and I give the wave for them to pull out in front of me… and they just sit. I flash my lights and honk my horn, but they still don’t move……. it isn’t until I have given up and start moving forward do they decide they want to cut in.
    Driving frustrates me sometimes.

    1. “I wasn’t letting you in, buddy, quit waving at me.” That is so me sometimes! It’s even worse when I’m not letting someone in and not only do they not flash the pre-emptive wave, but they still creep in and then don’t give a thank-you wave! Geez!

      Wonder why we tend to become so sensitive to driving issues? We humans are crazy drivers!

  11. Sometimes when I’m trying to get the geekteen to school on time, I get a little antsy about slow-pokes who prevent me from getting through a green light with their lollygagging. This happened again just the other day, and without thinking, I gave the driver the “raptor claw” with accompanying grimace of ferocity. Then when I realized I actually did that “out loud” and not just in my head, we died laughing.

      1. LOL, I didn’t actually have an accompanying noise, but if I ever consider adding one, it will be MORE intimidating than that, that’s for sure!

  12. If anyone’s from Indiana, please start spreading this! Just moved down from Michigan a few years ago and was shocked when no one offered any kind of waves – whether “thank you”, “sorry” or “go ahead”. It’s one of my favorite things to do and see, just a nice way to extend courtesy and keep people friendly, but it just doesn’t exist down here! I’m trying to spread it, but please, help me out!

    1. Yes – Indiana needs this! When I moved from Indiana to Massachusetts I was not sure why so many people were waving at me… LOL

  13. Oh yeah and now that I think about it, I think Neil left a typo in there. I think he meant CURSING through the streets, not cruising ;)

  14. Just a note – Yes, I usually wave when someone let’s me in and yes I usually get a wave when I let someone in, but guess what, if someone doesn’t wave at you, DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. I didn’t wave yesterday when some guy let me in because I was off in la la land and truly wasn’t thinking about “the wave”. I was thinking about a call I was expecting from an ex-boyfriend and I was trying to figure out what I was going to say and how I was going to keep my composure. Well, so, I get into traffic and I’m sitting there at the light and THE GUY drives up NEXT to me LIKE A PSYCHO and goes “excuse me” so I rolled down my window thinking surely he needs directions or something, well, he goes “Did you notice I let you into traffic back there?” and I said “Oh, that was you? Thanks. That was nice of you” and he goes “Well, you didn’t wave” and I go “oh, sorry. I didn’t think of it. But thank you. I did appreciate it” and then he goes “Well, that was really rude, you know” and said “seriously?” and he goes “yes, it’s rude not to wave” and I said “oh really? Well, it’s rude to drive up next to someone and tell them it’s rude not to wave” and that was followed by some language on my part that was not really fit for printing. Seriously. What a jerk. I actually was scared for a minute that he was going to get out of his car and attack me !

    1. Omigoodness your reply was the best though! What a weirdo though… He should know that there’s also an internal appreciation and thanks… Yeesh.

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