Where have all the waves gone?

Published 7:06 pm Monday, July 30, 2007

A decade ago, we rented our guest house (“The Store” — the remodeled old plantation commissary store) to a man from Texas who was in the TV business. The Ex-Tex had been a city boy all his life, and the one thing that really impressed him (besides coming in late at night and finding a large dead deer hanging in front of his door) was the friendliness of people here in the Mississippi Delta. Ladies would bring him cakes and cookies (which he shared with us), folks wrote him nice notes about his newscasts, and when he was driving on these country roads, everyone always waved to him! He finally came to realize that, on country roads, everybody waves to everybody else. Not a big “Howdy do there, Pod’nuh!” wave, but just a simple, usually two-fingers-from-the-top-of-the-steering-wheel, Wave as the vehicles passed each other. The Ex-Tex was charmed by this friendliness.

I came to the realization a few days ago that, for the most part, the Wave ain’t there no more.

Oh, I don’t mean that folks aren’t still friendly in the country. But they seldom do the Wave anymore, seems like. In traveling to other parts of the South on country roads, I’ve noticed the same thing, I just never connected it up until now. The reason that we’ve lost the Wave is: cell phones!

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I headed to town one day last week, passing a half-dozen vehicles in the first few miles, most of them pickup trucks or vans. Only one waved – because in every other vehicle, the driver was talking on a cell phone. The one who did wave did it out the window: two fingers sticking up over his side mirror. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen the Wave anyway, since the pickup windshield was tinted darkly enough that I would not have been able to see the Wave from the inside. Thinking back on that note, I can see that air-conditioning in vehicles has reduced waving, too. I recall that when Big Robert got his first air-conditioned truck (the one he was later killed in), his farming habits changed drastically. Instead of finding a tractor stopped in the field and getting out to see what was wrong hisownself, he’d drive around to find me or Br’er Beau, stop by our truck, roll his window down just enough to yell through it, “Deacon is stopped down in the deadening; go see what’s wrong.” Then he’d roll the window up and drive on.

On the day the realization hit me that the Wave had been superseded by cell phoneage, I was headed back to Brownspur later that day, and met a funeral procession, on the same country road. I pulled off to the side, took off my cap, and nodded respectfully as the cars drove slowly by behind the hearse. After seeing that the first few drivers (including the hearse driver!) were talking on cell phones, I started counting: nearly 75% of all the drivers were on the phone when they passed me! Strangely, there was usually only one person in a car, leading me to wonder if husband and wife had maybe come from their different workplaces to the funeral, and were catching up on family time as they drove to the cemetery.

Seems like I recall reading that a driver is more likely to have an accident while talking on a cell phone than is he is drinking and driving. It also seems like I recall some law being passed about talking on cell phones while driving; and I know I’ve seen folks wearing some type cell phone attachment on their ear, so they could talk hands free while they are driving, or cooking, or fishing, or whatever.

Seriously, I wonder how long it will be before we have a phone-type device implanted behind one ear, with a tiny microphone implanted just above that first tuft of chest hair to talk into? Men, I mean, of course. Will they be selling female upper underwear garments with miniature phones in the straps? Heck, I’ve seen several movies in which the hero has eyeglasses which are molded over phones, or even cameras – maybe we’ll have Driving Glasses with hands-free phones in them soon. Or maybe they have them now, they just ain’t got to Brownpur yet!

Oh, wow! Can you see using that type thing on a college final exam?

Well, when they perfect those type things, maybe the Wave will return to the country roads. Until then, just nod vaguely as you pass.