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With car traffic likely to be ugly this winter, small waves of gratitude will be particularly important.

Newnow/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been working out obsessively. I’m doing bicep curls and triceps curls and push-ups and pull-downs. There’s no time to let up. I’m working my finger muscles while typing this column. Maybe you haven’t heard, but this fall is going to unlike any other, at least since 1919 or 1347. It won’t be for the weak.

I am hammering my pectoralis major to maximize my internal rotation, adduction and arm flexion. My biceps brachii are pumped for elbow flexion. Don’t worry. My trapezius is stoked to raise my arm.

I will need all these muscles when I wave.

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That’s right. Wave. This fall when I drive, I’m going to wave my you-know-what off.

I hope I’m not alone. We’ve got to face it. Traffic is going to be a nightmare. It’s going to be Last Judgment meets Love Island bad. COVID-19 has freaked the planet. Autumn is in full blush. The leaves are painted orange and yellow, and there’s a bracing coolness to the air. There’s also an incredible increase in traffic volumes.

It’s only early autumn. Winter is coming.

By the time the snow hits, the only people taking public transit will be those with no alternatives. They built bike lanes, though those are not exactly crowded, and only the diehards cycle during the winter. Driving is going to be bad.

The only thing that can make it worse will be ill will.

Enter the wave.

The wave is the motion you make when another driver treats you with kindness. For instance, when a fellow motorist lets you merge in front of them. There are too many wave-worthy situations to name. The wave is a uniquely human gesture. Lions don’t give each other the wave on the savannah. Fish don’t give each other the wave under the sea.

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I’m not, by the way, referring to the so-called “Wave of Death” which occurs when the driver of a stopped car waves through a car coming in the opposite direction intending to turn left. The driver of the stopped car wants to be courteous, however, if there is a car approaching in the lane to the right of him, then its driver will be unaware that the car turning left got “the wave,” and a fatal accident may ensue. Don’t do this.

The “wave” is an acknowledgment. It’s a thank you. Gratitude. Many things will be in short supply on the roads this autumn: space, velocity, punctuality, patience. One thing that should not be is gratitude.

Unfortunately, not every driver does the wave. There are those who take good deeds from fellow motorists as a given. Consider these people “unwavers.” What’s the profile of someone who takes but does not give? There are no firm traits. You can’t tell who is going to give it up and who isn’t. It doesn’t matter what age, type of car or disposition. Some claim those who drive expensive vehicles are more likely to be unwavers. Others claim it’s pickup drivers. I don’t agree. Anyone is capable of being a self-centered creep. How did we arrive at an age when saying “thank you” is a unique and noble act rather than a reflexive movement? That’s for greater minds than me to debate. But here we are.

Don’t wave because you hope for some sort of karmic payoff. The wave isn’t about getting. It’s about giving. It’s about giving a smart purchase of decency in a world consumed by paranoid greed.

The next six months are going to be unlike any other. The traffic is going to be congested. If you’re in your car and stuck, it may be helpful to remind yourself that you are lucky to be there because if you are stuck in traffic then you are likely healthy and not suffering from the virus. Let that sink in. Wouldn’t you rather be stuck in a slow-moving jam than strapped in an ambulance racing through traffic? You’re lucky.

If that doesn’t make you feel like giving up a friendly wave, I’m not sure what will.

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