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Finger Salutes on Country RoadsPosted Friday, July 25, 2008, at 5:07 PM
Country dudes who travel the back roads of rural America tend to salute an approaching vehicle with a hand gesture utilizing one or more fingers.
Being a former City Slicker who has slowly evolved into a Country Bumpkin over the years, I've learned there's a definite etiquette to finger salutes.
First of all, this is a man thing. If you finger salute a woman, she either thinks she has a flat tire or you're some sort of pervert, both common occurrences on dusty, lonely roads. But if a woman finger salutes you, it's probably your wife or girlfriend, and she's in a bad mood.
Finger saluting is only done on isolated slow terrain, mostly dirt roads. Usually men who salute other men live somewhere down the road, at least a mile or more from a small town.
Never finger salute within fifty miles of an actual city, a place that has more than one stoplight or a building higher than two stories. City slickers take exception to any sort of finger salute and may make a quick U-turn to discuss the matter.
There are several different salutes, each with its own meaning, always performed by the hand on top of the steering wheel.
The raised index finger is the most common. This generally means "howdy."
The raised middle finger is another matter. Don't ever use this salute unless you have lots of tattoos and a gun rack in your rear window with at least one shotgun visible at all times. This is the "fight or flight" salute, which means you either want to engage in a physical altercation or you want to be chased across a couple of county lines by angry strangers.
The raised ring finger is also a no-no. This is a difficult finger to raise by itself and is often mistaken for the raised middle finger.
The raised pinky finger is also not a wise move unless you're a hairdresser or an interior decorator. If you get the same salute in return, perhaps you have found that special someone to do your nails.
The raised two fingers, the index and middle finger, is my favorite. It has multiple meanings so you usually can't go wrong. To ancient hippies, it's the old "peace" sign of the '60's. To conservatives, it's the "victory" sign Richard Nixon used to wave, with both hands, whenever he felt giddy or had too much scotch. To most everyone else, it means "howdy, howdy."
The last alternative is raising all four fingers. This is somewhat rare, often done by overly enthusiastic people who want to sell you something. It's also used by daring young men who want to prove they can steer a vehicle with just their thumb.
Another consideration is the sequence of events. Sometimes when you give a finger salute, the other guy doesn't give one in return. This can be very humiliating. Usually, I'll wait until the other guy gives me a salute first. Then I try to give him one back instantaneously so he'll think we did it at the same time. I figure it's more sociable if done simultaneously.
Even more humiliating is giving a finger salute then realizing it's actually a woman. Often from a distance it's hard to tell the driver's gender. Some back road women tend to resemble middle linebackers.
The most intriguing aspect of finger salutes is that you only see the hand on the steering wheel. The other hand is never in sight. I often wonder what it's up to but can only speculate.
If you're looking for some excitement in your life, give the middle finger salute to the next pickup truck occupied by more than one yahoo. Look the driver straight in the eye and smile menacingly. It also helps to mouth some words, even if you can't be heard.
Then simply wait for the adventure to begin -- it shouldn't take too long.
Just make sure you're buckled up and have a full tank of gas because you're going to very busy behind the wheel for a while.
Quote for the Day -- "I escaped the big-city Rat Race a couple of decades ago and have found peace on a dusty road, deep in the Boondocks. I now live where all the beautiful people live. Unfortunately, I'm the first to arrive." Bret
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Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.