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The Ballard Wave

Wednesday June 27, 2018

The Ballard Wave

People seem nicer to me when I am walking with my cane.  

As Seattle continues to grow, the polite civility for which it is known seems to be slipping away. The Emerald City could use a courtesy makeover. Nice is not a four letter word. Well, it is, but you know what I mean. Please. Thank you. You're welcome. Holding the door open for the person behind you.

The same person who ignores me one day will nearly knock others down to help me the nextif I'm using a cane. It's certainly not unpleasant to be treated nicely, but I really would appreciate a helping hand whether I have Parkinson's or not. What used to be common courtesy is sometimes not very common. But fear not! There are still places were courteous conduct is not only present, but regularly practiced.

The neighborhood of Ballard has a reputation for politeness. My mother, a long time resident, tells a story of waiting for the light to change at a pedestrian crosswalk in downtown Ballard. Traffic backed up, and one of the cars starting honking. The woman standing next to my mother surveyed the scene with distaste, and said with a sniff, "We don't honk in Ballard."

That said, Ballard-ites do observe certain rituals with regard to courteous behavior.  Most common is the Ballard Wave. Some people (I suspect they don't live here) use a different type of hand signal, usually to signal their unhappiness with a given situation. This is not an approved gesture, and invariably results in much head shaking and tsk-tsk-tsking from more mature residents.

Many streets in the residential areas of Ballard are too narrow for two vehicles to pass at the same time. One vehicle has to pull over to the side, and let the second car pass. It requires patience, precision driving skills, and a clairvoyant-like ability to decipher the intentions of a total stranger. The successful completion of this maneuver is accompanied by what I call the Ballard Wave.

It begins with two vehicles traveling toward each other. As they slowly approach one another, one driver needs to yield and pull over to the side. There is no specific rule as to who goes first; the drivers rely on a series of hand gestures to specify who will proceed.

Photo from MinnPost

Both drivers have their hands on their respective steering wheels at 10:00 and 2:00. As they pass, both drivers wave, although they are not required to wave at the same time.

The left hand in the 10:00 position flips up to about a 60 degree angle, with all fingers held closely together. In acknowledgement, and as a courtesy, the Ballard Wave is executed by both drivers. It is considered bad form if one driver Waves, and the other does not respond in kind.

Here are some additional do's and don'ts:

  • DO acknowledge the other driver's courtesy by saluting with the Ballard Wave.
  • DON'T roll your eyes and looked meaningfully at your watch.
  • DO maintain a pleasant demeanor, and smile.
  • DON'T swerve in front of another driver who is waiting (with their blinkers on) to get a parking space.

With careful attention to, and practice of these courtesies, you'll look like you've lived in Ballard all your life!

 

- Terry Harrigan

 

Top photo by Word Nymph

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