A New Hand Gesture for City Streets. UPDATED. And updated again!

I am becoming tired of documenting the Obama administration’s slide toward fascism,* of straightening out liberals’ twisted arguments, of  trying to install missing software in libertarians’ mental computers. I need a break. So, I am giving myself a little time off to consider a small but growing local problem. And to seek help from readers.

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* I use the word fascism carefully, not as an all-around insult. I don’t think the Democratic Party is a fascist organization. I think it has its fascist strand.

See also: https://factsmatter.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/fascism-explained-3/

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In California, new laws and/or the re-interpretation of old laws  have been making drivers more conscious of their obligation to give way to pedestrians.

Generally, they do but not as graciously as I would like them to. I get to cross  many streets on foot because I live downtown and because I think walking is good for me. (It’s good for you too.) Upwards of 80% I would estimate, of all drivers who stop to let me pass  make an impatient gesture with four fingers of their right hand, more or less, the way you would shoo a sheep.

In universal sigh language, the gesture means pretty much, ” Move on , go on; I don’t have all day.” Taken literally, it would induce the obliged pedestrian to run across the street. It implies that the driver’s haste is more important in the grand scheme of things than the pedestrian’s ease. Every gum-chewing red-neck  girl with a cheap push-up bra  thus gets to treat me at the crossroad the way a duchess used to treat the peasantry.

It’s intolerable, of course, but what to do?  The whole thing goes too fast for words. What’s needed is a gesture in return. Unfortunately, the most obvious gesture are already taken and pretty much reserved for incidents between drivers.  The first involves the  raised middle- finger of the right hand. It implies  unpleasant penetration on a modest scale. It’s a northern gesture. The second is found only but everywhere around the Med. It’s done with the left hand hitting the crook of the bent right elbow, the combination moving upward to head level. It signifies massive bodily penetration. (Personally, I think it’s almost always an over-statement.)

So, I am looking for a different hand gesture to devise and popularize, one visible from any driver’s seat. It will be a self gesture that means:

” My time is as valuable as yours. If your time is so valuable, why don’t you get up earlier, anyway, you lazy A.H.? If you knew how to read a watch, you would know that it always takes you 20 minutes, not 15, to get from your house to  your temp job. If you got off your beat-up car or your pickup truck, your ass and your thighs wouldn’t be so fat. Keep rushing across intersections,  and a cop will get you at the next speed trap. I hope it will cost you $379. ”

And so forth….

I think it would be best if it were a one- handed gesture, a sober gesture, in other words. I don’t want to appear an extremist. Got any idea?

UPDATE 6/6/13    I may have found a response thanks in large part to the false leads and quite unsatisfactory suggestions given by friends and enemies alike in the Comment section of this posting. (I am sorry, I call them as I see them.) I have tried some of those in the street without eliciting much interest. As is often the case, trying out the wrong solution directs one to the right solution – or to the almost right solution.

My own one-hand restriction was too restrictive. Instead, I have experimented with stopping dead in the street, turning frontally toward the  driver and addressing to him/her a double military salute. I mean a salute with both hands at once. The theory here is that the driver recognizes the derision implicit in a military salute out of context but the two handedness draws attention to the gross absurdity of his/ her behavior at the wheel. I suspect without affirming it that the step from realizing absurdity  to understanding one’s incivility is a small one.

The gesture I propose has one obvious drawback. It forces one to deposit a package on the ground in  the middle of the street or to let go of a small  child’s hand. I have to work on the details but still, it’s a step, albeit a small step, in fighting the  incipient authoritarianism at the wheel of otherwise nice people.

Update 7/13: My two-handed signal works. I would call it a small manifestation of communication near-genius if I had not designed it myself. Alas, it won’t do for most people most of the time because so many carry something in one hand or hold a child, or a dog leash. Back to square one.

About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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22 Responses to A New Hand Gesture for City Streets. UPDATED. And updated again!

  1. There is always the gesture that Ross Geller learned to use in the television series “Friends” to avoid shocking his parents, and that signified the same thing as the middle finger and the Mediterranean gesture:your two fists knocking twice in front of you. It is quite good, and efficient. It gives the right message, which is both I don’t care and go to the blazes..

  2. Nick says:

    as for the hand gestures; One could point to their watch or pretend they are wearing a watch to signify that the 20 seconds of time is moot.
    I recently was rear ended by a car and my car doesnt work. as a result I have been walking and biking. This feels incredibly dangerous to be because there are drivers who are eating, looking at their phones, doing drugs, putting on makeup, or just playing with themselves.
    but a heads up attitude is always good.
    I feel we need to increase the size of bike lanes and increase paths through the town. there are already tons of bikers and walking people out there.
    have a good day
    -N

  3. Terry Amburgey says:

    My recommendation is a 1-hand gesture but I’m not sure if it can be described as ‘sober’.
    Place the tip of your right thumb to the tip of your nose with your other fingers in a vertical position. Wiggle your fingers.

  4. Terry: No manly enough. Helen: Not completely clear. Nick: Did I solicit for a new agenda of social reform, Santa Cruz style? My goal is much less altering behavior than feeling good. Thank you all any way. More coming, I am sure.

  5. So sorry for posting the earlier video in Russian….Please delete it . Here is the same in English.

  6. ~Michael~ says:

    As busy I can be, I tend to give pedestrians and cyclists a little more time. In other words, it’s a sign for me to slow down and contemplate the task I have.

    As far as hand gestures, I like to lead with a smile and a nod of my head. My ancestors couldn’t read, let alone drive a car. Through hard work and determination, the made a home for people like me in this valley. This knowledge has been passed down several generations.

    • Michael: No one’s ancestors could read. That’s how we developed hand gestures. I am just arguing that we need one more, just one.

      • I’ve got nothing for you, except extreme respect for your making me laugh out loud with your anthropological reply above. I think a real man could use Terry’s gesture (it was what I was going to suggest). Pouring a glass of Zin while I ponder a new one.

      • Terri: You make my point about Terry’s proposed gesture: You are a girl, that’s why you like it.

        As for the other thing: I am glad someone out there is able to recognize good social science.

  7. Bruce Whetstone says:

    For your consideration: The OK sign – which to most would imply that you acknowledge their desire that you make haste in crossing the street (but of course is interpreted as “you zero” or “a-hole” in some countries). Or… the Vulcan salute, which could mean “live long and prosper” in a sarcastic kind of way. Or… the Wanker, might get you run over. And last but not least, the ILY (I love you) from sign language, which might keep them guessing, but could also be a sarcastic, albeit 60’s peace sign, response.

  8. Bruce says:

    I sometimes give a thumbs up, a carryover from my military days. Since you’re living in Cali you might want to consider one from the illustration below to make things interesting:

    The suggested verbal accompaniment is ” SUP FOO?”

  9. Rich in Soquel says:

    Cranky Jacques at work again! Perhaps I’m more concerned about self preservation than you, but I tend to interpret such drivers’ gestures to mean “I actually am aware that you are planning on crossing the street, I see you, and I won’t run you over.” My response is usually a small hand wave in thanks.

    • Rich: Your interpretation is so off reality you must be a liberal Democrat! What they are actually saying is this,” If you linger, I will prrbably run you over.”

      • Rich in Soquel says:

        Them’s fighting words, Jacques. However, out of fear of an audit, I won’t describe my political leanings.

        For the past 20 years I have worked in a second floor office that looks out on a busy 4-way-stop intersection in Capitola. I have seen an average of one car per month go through the stop at speeds exceeding 25 mph. I have seen pedestrians struck in the crosswalk multiple times. I have seen cars bounce over the median and break traffic signs off. Many times I have heard pedestrians yell “Don’t hit me” as cars make quick turns trying to sneak ahead of other traffic out of turn. I have been in the middle of the crosswalk with both of my hands on the hood of an old Cadillac whose owner finally noticed me just as I began the jump onto her accelerating car’s hood.

        Please reconsider your response to my original comment.

  10. This has been top of mind every drive and walk I’ve taken this week. I’m noticing the small hand wave of, “go ahead,” and the “thank you” return wave. So…what’s the opposite? I’m coming to like spread five fingers held out in front — yes, it could be seen as stop — but not a cartoon police stop. More a stop, in your face, combined with a “talk to the hand.”

    …but wait… in simulating this with Bruce, we’ve come to another possibility: The Claw — possibly combined with a bared teeth facial expression and frown. It might take practice. I think you should post video for our opinion.

  11. I like them. A little weak though. The claw, I am not sure. Explain.

  12. Bruce: Nothing to reconsider although it’s a little true that my accusation was more fiendish than needed. (I know because a low–level government official just put on-line twenty-years worth of your phone communications.) On self-preservation: It’s the duty of old men to do the right thing at any cost to themselves. No one else can or will. (Old women are limited by the secondary effects of botox injections.)

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