Amongst motorcyclists, there is an unwritten code. Unfortunately, because it’s unwritten, I am not privy to its contents. But, I do know about the “hello wave.” While you’re riding, if you cross paths with another cyclist, you extend your left (clutch) hand down with fingers lightly splayed. You don’t need to make eye contact or nod (unless your clutch hand is busy clutching) you simply let the hand speak for you. The wave is a way of saying “I see and acknowledge you. I am amongst the throngs of great motorcyclists which have come before me, and acknowledge you as a member of the pack as well.”
The thing about the wave is that after two years of riding a motorcycle every chance I get, I still get thrilled when one of my waves is returned. The thrill, I think, comes from being just another person in black leather…the person on the other bike doesn’t care if I’m black, white or _______ (include your ethnicity here); if I’m male or female; if I’m gay or straight (or somewhere in between.). We are all simply acknowledging that we are a breed apart.
Now, if you know dogs, you know that sometimes, being a breed apart is not a good thing. In fact, we tend to throw that word “breed” around as if it is one of the lesser words in the language, but let’s think on it for a moment. If a dog is a pure breed, it tends to be worth more than one that does not have a pedigree. Inbreeding and overbreeding usually lead to health problems. A mixed breed, while loyal and companionable, is usually seen as worthless.
In his story “The Open Boat,” Stephen Crane talks of a “subtle brotherhood” that develops among four men who are stranded in a small boat, fifty feet from shore, with no hopes of getting there because of rocks and terrible undercurrents. There are days when, metaphorically speaking, the rocks and undercurrents threaten to keep me from shore as well. Yet, I am aware of the subtle brotherhood that comes with that little hello wave. I am disappointed when I give the wave, and don’t get a return. I am ecstatic when the wave is initiated from the other cyclist.
In these times when we receive the bulk of our validation from television or video games, it is great to actually receive acknowledgement from another human being, even if they don’t know who I am. I am simply a person on a bike, sharing a common interest. And that rates a hello wave.
An article from Susan