Here is What Happened on the Day I Decided to Sit by the Highway and Wave at Passing Cars

It took a while for people to start noticing me. In the morning during rush hour, I was indistinguishable from the roadside clutter that paints the landscape of the morning commute. Eyes forward. Hands on the wheel. No one notices a guy who’s using a personal holiday to sit in an aluminum lawn chair and wave at passing cars. And if no one notices, no one waves back. Until about 9:30.

The first person to wave back looked like a woman, though it was hard to be sure because she was moving pretty fast (I don’t know why I mention her gender, it’s not really important). I could, however, see that she didn’t smile when she waved. In fact she may have frowned more, or been the sort of person with unhappiness permanently etched in the corners of a mouth that seem to fall forever towards the floor.

But anyway, it was nice that she bothered to wave back.

More people started waving the closer it got to noon. Then the honking started with the occasional “woo woo!” and a terrible looking Toyota Corolla full of school-ditching kids who all gave me the finger in unison. There were no moonings to speak of but there was a little bit of headlight flashing and more than a couple long haul truckers who really let me have it with the big horn. One of those cottonpickers was really standing on the pedal in the hammer lane when he blew out his eighteenth tire. BOOM! SMOKE! That scaly piece of rubber sat there on the tar in front of me for the rest of the day, splayed out in the sun like a lost alligator. I thought about running out to pick it up, Frogger style, but that’s not what this day was about.

I waved big sweeping waves for hours. I alternated arms and speeds to keep things fresh. There was a nice long streak of wave-backs around three o’clock that ended when I waved at Jeff Perkins and he waved back. I knew his name was Jeff Perkins because he told me so, after he pulled off the side of the road to get out and say hello.

“Whatcha doing out here on the highway?” Jeff Perkins asked. I told him I was taking a day off to wave at motorists, like community service.

Like community service,” he repeated with unnecessary gravitas. I could tell he was disappointed that there was only one chair here.

“Too bad there’s only one chair or I would sit with you. Hey, did you know I can do one hundred push ups?” Of course I didn’t know that.

And I don’t think a State Trooper would have ever noticed me sitting in an aluminum lawn chair, using a personal holiday to wave at passing motorists, if there hadn’t been a pale, six-foot-five bald man in a bright orange tank top doing push ups on the hot concrete next to me.

“You guys can’t be out here on the public right of way,” State Trooper yelled, trying to sound scary loud above the rush of traffic passing inches behind him.

“Fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty,” Jeff Perkins said.

“He’s going to one hundred,” I said.

Of course he wouldn’t make it to one hundred, because this State Trooper said something State Troopery like, “It’s my way now get off the highway!” and even though I could have pleaded my case with him a little more, I just decided to do what he asked. First I shook Jeff Perkins’ gravel-pocked hand and told him he still looked pretty strong at sixty push ups.

“Thanks for waving at me,” he said. He seemed pretty upset that the State Trooper was chasing me away with so many hours left in the day. His bald head started to turn splotchy flush with anger and he said he might walk over to the State Trooper, who was back in his car and talking into his radio, to give him a piece of his mind. Jeff Perkins was clenching and unclenching his fists, shifting from foot to foot when I leaned forward, put my hands on his shoulders and smiled.

That’s not what this day is about, Jeff Perkins.

The State Trooper honked.

We turned and waved at him.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.