OK, what is the deal with hand signals? I’m not talking about left turn, right turn types of signals that have become obsolete unless you are limping home with a broken blinker system or just like attention from the NYPD. I’m talking about when you’ve returned from a long weekend and a long drive and have been cruising your neighborhood for a half hour for a parking space, you are driving down a block and, “Eureka!” you spot someone getting into their car. You pull up and, unless you just like to hover and idle your engine for long periods of time, and assuming it is not your teenage daughter and her boyfriend in the car, you query the person on whether they are actually leaving. Those hand signals.
I know we are a multiethnic, multi religious, rainbow colored, many peopled melting pot in the making and in New York so much of it works most of the time. But this brave new experiment has not enabled us to come to an agreement on something as simple as some kind of universal hand signals for leaving/not leaving a parking space. I’ve seen hands going up, hands going down, palms upturned, middle finger extended, hands shooing, fingers fluttering, fingers (or finger) wagging, or nothing at all behind tinted windows so dark that you start to wonder if it wasn’t them who pulled up alongside you. The very same gestures can mean opposite things depending on who is giving them or who is receiving them.
Hand signals are important because we often drive with windows closed, very few drivers are legally blind and can understand visual cues, they are quick and do not require us to have a whole conversation or come to a full stop even. No one wants to hover fruitlessly only to let the row of Sharks (see 5-8-10 post) behind you all pass you by relegating you to the back of the line. So, a quick answer to the obvious question is a useful thing.
Thus, I have conducted a very scientifically extensive, double blind, triple axel (with a twist), 4 wheeled survey of my peers and am proposing a universal set of hand/head signals to indicate your current claim to that parking space where you are squatting.
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The nod (smile optional) would be the YES I AM LEAVING and this can include any other message or range of emotions you like, because this news is so good, we are prepared to endure it all knowing we will soon be home and at rest to enjoy a favorite movie or talk to our family or friends. For you more athletic types a thumbs up can sometimes be substituted.
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Holding up 5 fingers to indicate 5 minutes or 10 fingers to indicate 10 minutes. All longer units of time up to and over one hour are not understood to be included in either of these signals. When someone once pointed out a New York minute is about half of everybody else’s, they were obviously talking about a driver waiting for a parking space so please do not abuse this signal. If you are just waiting in your vehicle, and are possessed of divine compassion, you might consider vacating the space and waiting double parked.
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In addition to its all important, NO, I AM NOT MOVING primary meaning, the wagging of the index finger to the left and right can also be understood to include an entire rainbow of emotions from “So sorry!” to “Just got here.” to “Can’t I just get a little shut eye without people disturbing me?” I think we owe a debt of gratitude to our Latino parkers here as the wagging finger is a favorite among Hispanic drivers I have seen, and, even though it may make some of us feel like we are misbehaving in class, it seems to be the simplest and easiest understood of hand signals.
Last, but not least. If a driver gets into his or her parked car, but will not answer or even acknowledge your query, maybe won’t even look at you, move on. They have much greater troubles than you.
Please feel free to offer your own suggestions.