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1970

1970


betty and i were in new zealand in a tiny little camper driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. we’ve been to new zealand once before in the context of peter paul and mary...and despite the fact that those pp&m road trips are usually such a blur, there was something about the two sister islands that was magic...

elizabeth (who we called button when she was younger because she was ‘cute as a...’) was bouncing around in the rear, from bunk to bunk checking out each drawer and closet, turning each fixture; we smiled at her shrieks of discovery upon finding the abandoned deck of cards or calendar from the previous rentor. it was easter time 1970, the small ‘vacation’ window following a united states tour and just prior to another one in japan.

after several hours on the road, liz finally wound down and took up a curled sleeping position on the couch that ran the length of the vehicle. betty and i swapped roles and while i looked over the map of the north island, she assumed driving duties. there were few cars on the road this day; perhaps it was during the week and most of the activity was taking place in the cities...not that new zealand is ‘overcrowded’ in any event.

we mounted the top of a hill to discover a long straight descent ahead of us; perhaps a half mile to the bottom and an equal distance up the other side of the valley. just as we began at our end, another vehicle topped the hill at the other end and we began the long closing of distance between us. the surrounds so void of habitation, yet so green and beautiful, the other car and ourselves became more and more unique. closer and closer we drew to one another. it became obvious from our speeds that we would pass at almost the exact bottom of the valley. perhaps it was the fact that the surroundings were so huge and we human participants seemed so insignificant within the grandeur of such natural beauty; mountains in the distance, wisps of clouds against a gorgeous blue sky and this thin ribbon of highway laying in the valley from hilltop to hilltop. liz asleep in the back. the windows down and the cool breeze and then there we were just 50 feet or so from the oncoming car. it seemed so natural to wave; as if to say ‘hello, we’re aware of the perfectness of this moment too’. and, right on cue, just as i lifted my arm out the window, the couple in the front seat of the passing car waved back at us.

"wow", i thought. a moment went by and i turned to betty.

"did you have the feeling...i mean, did you just KNOW that those folks were going to wave?! almost like it was ‘in the stars’?!" i asked.

betty thought briefly. "no..."

hmmmmmmmm, i thought, back to the cosmic drawing board...

but the more i thought about it, the more it seemed there was a real value to a wave...something engaging...like a smile...and if someone waved at you it was like a gift; you just had to pass it on.

"a wave is amazing you know" i said to betty who seemed quite content to be amazed by the new zealand countryside.

"mmmmm?" she replied non-committally, not following my train of thought.

"if you wave at someone", i proposed, "they MUST wave back".

"not neccessarily" said betty.

"well, i’m going to try it...", i said.

"you’re not!?" betty replied, peering at me over the top of her sunglasses. after two years as a graduate student living in france, she saw this simply as another example of improper gregariousness; the ugly american syndrome.

"aw, c’mon...i mean, what’s to lose? and besides," i insisted and volunteered my new theory, "a wave is never wasted..."

i could tell she was debating the relative worth of random waving when the next car came into view.

"look!", i pointed up ahead.

"no-el!", betty said in cautious disapproval. but i could tell she was weakening...

we could see the outlines of an entire family in the oncoming car; three or four children in the back seat and one of them leaning out the window with arms folded with both eyes squint shut against the oncoming wind and bright sun. as they came to within 100 feet or so i once again raised my arm from the window ledge and gave them a healthy wave. i saw that betty had as well... immediately everyone within the car; mom and pop in the front seat and the two or three kids in the rear waved.

"alright!" i proclaimed. and both betty and i laughed and looked ahead to the next car.

for the next thirty kilometers or so until we stopped for lunch, we waved at every car we passed and yes, every car we passed waved back.


 

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