Smile and Wave-Walking in Central Oregon

What are the rules in rural Oregon?  Why does everyone wave?  My mom and I went for a walk Friday afternoon.  Bend, Oregon was sunny and sixty-three so it was almost shorts weather!  My mother is fanatical about getting 13,000 steps in each day.  She cranked out her last 1500 by 4:30pm.  She lives out of town so we don’t see too many cars but every one that passes is a SOCIAL INTERACTION.   What’s up with that?  Each person slows, swings wide, smiles and waves.  Some of the older folks with cowboy hats even nod as if to say, “Howdy M’am.”

I always forget that I’m expected to reciprocate each of these acts of kindness.  The first car drives by and I wonder why they are acting so strange.  Is there a wild beast (a.k.a. unruly dog) stalking me?  Am I taking up too much of the street on the shoulder-less, sidewalk-free rural area?  Are they slowing down in order to abduct us?  Most of these pick-up drivers couldn’t wrestle ME (one benefit of being large) into their rig but my mom is a tiny little thing so she’d be easy to whisk away and my dad would pay a king’s ransom  for her.  Once I see the wave, smile and nod I remember that this is how it’s done in Central Oregon.

By the second car, I’m working on my friendly, nonchalant wave.  By the fifth car, I’ve mastered my timing so that I wave when they are close enough to see me as our eyes lock and they recognize me as my mother’s daughter.

I wonder if long ago, people were taught this COMMUNITY ENHANCING SKILL in order to keep pedestrians’ alive.  Distracted drivers in Central Oregon have been a thing since vehicles started driving.  The mountain views are breathtaking.  It’s so easy to get caught up in their wonder, having a ritual like scanning the road for people and making sure to smile and nod, is a practice that saves lives.

When I go home, I’m going to try this in my non-rural neighborhood just to see what happens!




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