Friday, June 11, 2010

The Arkansas Fingerflick

There's a curious little phenomenon I had never seen before moving to Arkansas. I call it the Arkansas Fingerflick.

We live way out in the country - twenty miles into town through the beautiful countryside, and only one stop sign! Sometimes, I may not see a single car, though I'll see plenty of cows, chicken houses, deer, armadillos, skunk, raccoon, once even a mountain lion.

But on those times my car comes upon another approaching from the opposite direction, I can always count on receiving a fingerflick from the driver. One finger flicked up from the steering wheel--the pointer finger. In that swift little movement, that driver tells me any of the following:
"Beautiful day, ain't it?"
"Have a good one."
"All's right with the world."

Sometimes, a slight nod of the head might accompany the fingerflick, then I know that driver is a particularly friendly person.

It took me a little while to get the hang of the fingerflick. When I first moved to Arkansas, I'll admit I was a little embarrassed to reply with my own, awkward flick, so I'd just return a nervous smile.

When at last, I loosened up some, I started waving in reply. Well, that obviously exposed me as an outsider. Finally, I decided I needed to get with the game. When a car approached, I'd shake out the nerves in my hands.

And the driver gave me his fingerflick. "Good morning!"

Then, slowly, slowly, my stiff pointer finger would rise off the steering wheel. "Have a good day!"
I knew I'd finally become a real Arkansan the first time I made the fingerflick first, and was only slightly less-than thrilled when the other driver returned it.

It seems such a silly little thing, until I travel somewhere else and share our Arkansas "hello." Most of the time, I don't get a response. Those are the times I appreciate the simplicity and friendliness of our curious phenomenon, the Arkansas Fingerflick.


  1. Ah, the Arkansas fingerflick. I too know it well and like it. My read on it, as I approach the coming car, is "Good to see you. I love living in the country too." Then, as we pass, it continues with "Have a good day."

    However, as for passing a mountain lion on the road, I hope to never have that delight. Although, I did once come upon a bear near my front door.

    When I came upon that bear, she stood up on hind legs to get a better look at me. Our eyes met. And then there was a fingerflick sort of understanding that passed between us. But in this case it was "I see you, you see me, and let's go back to where we came from" - which is what we did.

    If I ever do come upon a mountain lion I hope it knows the bear's understanding of acknowledgment.

    Thanks, Jan, for writing about the Arkansas county howdy.

  2. Wow, LeAynne! What an encounter you had with that bear. Stephen has seen one, though not so "up close and personal." My encounter with the mountain lion (a very small one) was fleeting. It had just finished crossing the road, and I don't know if he ever saw me. Thanks for your comment!

  3. The fingerflick evolved from the earlier hand wave, which often resulted in beer being sloshed into the lap.

  4. Too funny! When Kevin was here a couple of months ago, he got really offended when we passed someone on our 4 miles of gravel road and the other driver didn't acknowledge him. No fingerflick or nod. Plus the other driver was going too fast for dirt road conditions.

    Quite the change from the arctic. There are no roads between the communities, but each village has miles of dirt/ice roads throughout. Waving, nodding, smiling. NEVER crosses anyone's minds. It's amazing how much friendlier people are in warm places. Wonder why that is?

  5. Mr. Quixote, it's no wonder while driving we had to evolve from the earlier hand wave!

    Claire, how easily we get spoiled to the warm weather and friendly people! (And I love your polar profile pic! That's one happy bear.)