The Wave

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The Wave is something that will ring a bell for anyone who has ever driven in the Australian countryside.  If you find yourself driving in Australia a few kilometers outside any country town or 50-100 kilometers from one of the capital cities, you’ll see oncoming drivers (and sometimes passengers) signal some kind of greeting as vehicles pass.  Traveling through the southern Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia we’ve endured almost 2000 kilometers of open expanse with little more than Spinifex, ferrous red dirt, the occasional boulder and a lot of blue sky so to keep ourselves occupied we thought we catalogue all the different types of The Wave one can expect to see (and we’ve seen) traveling this wonderful land Down Under.

All of the following examples of The Wave can be practiced with either hand by the driver or passenger (or both) with the exception of The Late-Comer which is a driver-only gesture that must be performed with the right hand (remember the steering wheel is on the right of the car in Australia…).

The SingleThe Single
The Single is the easiest and hence most common example of The Wave.  It is performed by simply lifting the index finger from the steering wheel to salute an oncoming vehicle.

The Gun The Gun
A far less common version of The Wave but one guaranteed to excite the vehicular environment is The Gun.  Executed by removing either hand from the wheel and forming a gun-like shape with the index finger extended, gesturing as if cocking a pistol when the oncoming vehicle is at close range.
The Double The Double
A logical progression from The Single, The Double is performed by lifting both index and middle fingers from the steering wheel.
The Double Barrel The Double Barrel
As with The Double and The Single, The Double Barrel is the logical progression from The Gun.  Mirror the action of The Gun and simply add the middle finger to the gun-like shape formed with the hand.
The Quad The Quad
Getting interesting now…  The Quad takes The Double a couple of steps further to extend all four fingers of the hand in the most visible version of The Wave possible without removing a hand from the steering wheel.
The Double Gun The Double Gun
The Double Gun is one of the most complex versions of The Wave that should only be attempted by experienced Wavers.  The Double Gun should only be performed on straight roads with large shoulders and never in the presence of traffic.  The Double Gun involves removing both hands from the steering wheel simultaneously and executing The Gun at the same time with both hands.  (We have only ever seen The Double Gun once, and what a fantastic demonstration it was: a couple of bushies in the northern Pilbara caught us off guard when both driver and passenger blew us away with synchronized Double Guns.)
The Universal The Universal
Recognized the world over as a conventional manner in which to say hello, The Universal involves removing a hand from the steering wheel and simply waving.
The Queen The Queen
Another advanced version of The Wave, The Queen involves removing the left hand from the steering wheel and, with all digits pointing upwards, slowly moving the hand across the windscreen in a circular, counter-clockwise direction (for the right hand use a circular, clockwise motion).  Imagine yourself as Queen Elizabeth waving to the crowds at Buckingham Palace and you’ll have it perfected quickly.  (The Queen is also a gesture we’ve only been fortunate enough to witness once: an excellent demonstration by an elderly woman in the passenger seat of a brand new LandCruiser traversing the central Stuart Highway.)
The Thumb The Thumb
While The Thumb could be interpreted as an offensive gesture in some of the countries we’ve visited on this trip, in the Australian Outback The Thumb is a quick and easy way to signal hello and that everything is AOK.  The Thumb is performed by removing a hand from the steering wheel and extending the thumb upwards while keeping a clenched fist.
The Salute The Salute
As the name suggests, The Salute is performed by saluting an oncoming vehicle as if standing in a lineup at Duntroon.  The Salute is the most formal example of The Wave and, to prevent detracting from the light-hearted nature of The Wave in general, should be reserved for ex-military and current servicemen only.
The Late-Comer The Late-Comer
A personal favorite of ours and the only hand-specific example of The Wave, The Late-Comer can only be performed by the driver.  Upon realizing that as the driver you have not returned The Wave from an oncoming vehicle, The Late-Comer is a hasty right-handed gesture toward the rear of the driver’s side window executed with the hope that either the passing car will witness your reciprocal Wave at the last minute or that your late Wave will be seen in the initiator’s side mirror.  The Late-Comer should be reserved for only those occasions in which The Wave of an oncoming vehicle has not been reciprocated.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 1:50 PM and is filed under Australia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “The Wave”

  1. Lynn Westoby says:

    Funny commentary on down under travel, very enjoyable, John and Lynn.

  2. Jazz says:

    Todd isn’t allowed to do the Double Barrel!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Max & Eleanor says:

    It’s thumbs up from us !

  4. Sam says:

    Yeah, I forgot to mention that, thanks Jarrod: TB you’re not allowed to practice the Double Barrel.

  5. Heidi says:

    Thanks for the afternoon laugh–good to get me through the next hour and a half of work!!! I’ve loved reading your stories. Thaks for sharing!

    By the way–Harvest 2009 is over! Woo Hoo! Party time!

  6. Hand-J says:

    I notice that one particular hand jester is missing. “The Bird”

    Perhaps the folks down under are more civilized.

  7. Sam says:


    I was actually tempted to deliver a bird to a couple of righteous geriatrics near the Devil’s Marbles in the Northern Territory after they kept us up all night with The Best of Elvis Presley and we passed them on the Stuart Highway the next day. But I refrained and as of yet we are yet to see The Bird on the country roads of Australia. If we see it I’ll add it…


  8. Hand-J says:

    Dig it.

    I’ll work on my grammar in the meantime “jester” to gesture.

    Keep on Truck’n!

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