Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Wave

Bus and rail operators wave at each other. Usually. It's a sign of recognition and respect.

We're accustomed to not being recognized by other motorists "out there" for our efforts to keep others safe. When we pass by another transit employee, it's customary to give a friendly wave. Unless we're busy, most operators and other transit workers observe this time-honored tradition. I even give a "thank you" wave to motorists who stop on my Yield signal and allow me back into traffic. It beats the obscene gesture others usually flash me.

Our ladies have the most creative waves. There's what I call the "beauty queen" wave, where they pivot their hand at the wrist and add a sweet smile. Some reserve this for folks they know, opting to use the common "swath in front of the wheel" wave for others.

Another one of my favorites is the "big wave out the window". If you don't know the driver, you wonder if it's a desperate plea to "come drive this thing for me willya I need a break". The most common I see is the nonchalant "hiya brother" half-salute. Or the wave from inside the driver window that means either "whatever, dude" or "oh yeah hello to you too, I guess".

Then there are those who see you wave, but look right through you as if you don't exist. No wave there. If they're close enough you can see the accompanying eye roll. It's kind of disheartening. But then again, not everyone who drives a transit vehicle is having the best of days. I give them a pass, because usually the next time you see them they at least give you a half-hearted one. If they never wave at all, so be it. I'm a big boy.

Sometimes I'm guilty of failure to wave. If I'm having a truly rotten day, it's hard to even acknowledge my passengers as they board. Seeing a sad puppy dog look from a waver to whom I fail to return the gesture is usually enough to snap me out of it. They don't deserve the bad vibes I'm feeling. On the return trip, I'll be sure to at least single out the one(s) I ignored with an exaggerated makeup wave.

Oftentimes my beloved will catch me waving at bus operators when I'm driving our car. "Roopsie, long day," il say. "But I know that gal!" She'll remind me they can't see me on the down low.

One driver I know gave me a puzzled look when I asked him why he didn't wave back one day. "I didn't know it mattered all that much," he said. Later that afternoon as I drove by him downtown as we waited to do his road relief, he gave me an exaggerated double wave with his customary dry-wit sardonic half smile. It was hilarious, but also a signal to me: it's no biggie, get over it.

A few drivers out there are so green they are more focused on scanning and being careful than waving. That's okay. I'd rather they get a feel for safely guiding "the beast" with two hands than acknowledging me.  They have to successfully pass probation without a scratch or a dent, and I'm past that.

I appreciate all my brothers and sisters out there. We do a tough job. When I wave at them, I'm showing respect. To my more senior brothers and sisters, I sometimes shoot them a salute. It's not mandatory, nor is it expected. It is nice, though. Thanks!


  1. I try to wave to other drivers, and I feel bad if someone waves at me and I miss it so I toot my horn, "Ooops."

  2. I've had passengers ask about the wave, my response "It's a bus driver secret code, can't tell you"

  3. Back in the old days (not necessarily my time), before we had fancy radio telephones in every vehicle, the wave between operators was an "all-is-well" signal. We checked on each other's well being if we didn't see that wave, it was often indicative of some sort of trouble. So, we stopped across the road and went to our brother or sisters aid. Now that was solidarity!

  4. There are routes it is rare to see another bus and you are genuinely excited to see a fellow operator. On the flip side are routes there are so many buses you have a hard time keeping up. Some routes you always seem to pass the same bus with the same driver at the same sharp curve at the exact time everyday. My two favorite waves are the big nighttime right side wave so the other operator sees your arm in the light. The other one is the hang loose wave.

  5. Often times the operator will wave to someone outside their vehicle, but the glare or shadow angle makes it so you don't see it. The guy on the inside thinks "What the?". I try to wave at as many as I can, even if I can't "physically" see them, because: 1) it costs me nothing 2) it might be a mood changer 3) I work with alot of pretty awesome people that don't get acknowledged any other way and 4) they may have waved at me but I couldn't see it due to the glare, and if I had seen it, I most surely of waved!

  6. Another way I think about it is, "Am I aware of changing conditions around me, including the approaching union brother or sister in the bus opposite me." If I see that operator wave at me and I can wave back, I know I'm paying good attention to the other vehicles in the area.

    It's always about business before pleasure, though. First come my duties to safety and security, then other priorities like the obligatory union exchange. I think we all understand that, so no hard feelings if I see you're busy handling the bus or dealing with a passenger.

  7. I am a lift driver, so that means we carry that same trimet symbol but to most fixed route that means is sometimes disheartening not to get the wave....but their are a few who do and we appreciate it....

  8. Most of the LIFT drivers wave to each other, but not as much to the big busses. I have started waving to them as well, and every once in a while I'll get one back. It is a small gesture, but one of "I see you, we are doing similar jobs, hope you are having a good day."

  9. I love the waving!!! Makes me feel like we are all in a special, secret "club"......used to drive a Corvette many years ago; they actually have the same "club" acknowledgement. It's just a nice feeling of "belonging" to something bigger than yourself:)

  10. Our drivers here are really good about waving to each other, if the vehicle has the same markings whether it's a big bus, handidart, support vehicle we wave to each other. It's always nice to see and notice the others