Do you wave back at children when they wave at you? The boys in red shirts sitting in buses passing you by as you wait for yours to arrive, the girls holding on to their dad’s hands and shyly yet bravely waving at you at the grocery store.
Do you wave back?
As a kid, I remember my disappointment when people would not care when I waved at them. And oh, how I waved. Most often in school busses when we went on trips, sometimes with my brother from the window of our dad’s car, maybe in a museum or in a shopping center, there I was a little less brave. The movements of my hand were barely visible.
But I waved. Sometimes with great passion and a big smile that left my cheeks hurting. With waving came giggles (that mostly happened in groups) and the “eyes” from adults (that being the symbol of being annoyed).
Over the years, I got to know who would and who would most certainly not wave back. First off, truck drivers. They always reciprocated our waving. There was always however, the quiet moment, those 5 split seconds, in which they noticed you. Truck drivers, who, back then, all looked the same to me, had this thing in their eyes that scared me. I know now it was fatigue, but back then this something in their eye always made me think that instead of a wave back I will see a middle finger, a symbol deemed as very rude and never to be used in kindergarten. They never did though. They always waved back, even when the bus or their truck was moving they would stretch their necks out and would give those long army waves, not the small, vague ones.
The ones who rarely waved, however, were adults in public transport. Always caught up in their phones, newspapers, or other occupations. Sitting in between my girlfriends I always thought why they would not talk with each other in the way we did, so loudly in the back of the bus. Then I learned that I will once be on the other side of the glass, being yet another boring adult.
The worst, however, were people who were driving alone in their cars. Businesswomen getting ready to work in their car mirrors, grandmas speeding hazardously fast, mildly obese guys with basketball caps or yearly 20-somethings who just got their license. They never waved back. I always imagined they saw us, sat in the crippling silence of an empty car, only the sounds of the working engine producing any noise. They got nervous when the lights wwould not chang back to green and would do everything not to turn their heads at an angle that would enable us to catch their eye. They were cold to me. Their skin always appeared paper-like through the car windows.
I realized the importance of waving back in the Dublin National Museum a few weeks back. As I was clicking the button of the floor I would arrive on I saw a boy walking down the stairs. As the glass elevator moved up, the little boy started walking faster, skippingthrough steps that for him seemed like rocks he had to jump on. He started waving with this grim on his face, scared I will be that grumpy adult who would look away. But he was lucky that day. I started waving as vigorously as ever. Smiling so hard my cheeks started to hurt. The boy started running even faster and waving with both of his hands. I did the same. When the elevator stopped I could see him. A little dot on the murmur stairs still waving at me. I heard the ding of the elevator and walked out. While I was putting my feet on the floor I heard the boy’s mum looking for him. I waved the last time knowing that this time he will not see me.