There is one thing I love about winter in Moab.
It is the wave.
To do the Moab wave: Lift two fingers off the steering wheel in an almost “peace sign” type motion. If you’ve never seen it, try it. A true Moabite will return the sign.
I wasn’t aware of the Moab Wave until I drove my former father-in-law’s big white Chevy truck in 1994. All of a sudden people I didn’t know were doing the wave as I drove by.
I realized by day’s end that it wasn’t me they were waving to, it was the truck, and they trusted that whoever the driver may be would be worthy of that wave.
Whenever I drove the big white Chevy truck after that day, I felt fully confident to return the wave and began to recognize the other vehicles as well, even if I didn’t know the drivers’ names.
And, then, when I got behind the wheel of my own red and white Isuzu Trooper, I bravely attempted to wave at the drivers in those same vehicles.
They waved back.
One day my niece took my Trooper for a spin. She said a bunch of people waved as she drove by. Then something went wrong and the car stalled on the side of the road.
Several different people stopped to help, looked at her dreadlocks and said, “You’re not the girl who normally drives this car.”
“You have a lot of friends,” she said.
“They are my waving friends,” I said.
It’s harder to wave when the hoards of visitors return to our town. That’s when Main Street is filled with Jeeps and SUVs of all kinds, piled high with bikes and kayaks, or pulling trailers filled with motorcycles and ATVs.
There are so many people and vehicles from out of town that it is hard to find Moab people who know the wave in the midst of the crowd.
And don’t even bother trying to make a left-hand turn.
It’s also harder to find Moab people in the grocery stores.
In the winter I can visit with a friend from high school in the produce aisle and get all the recent gossip from a former coworker as I’m picking up my milk. By the time I get to the cash register two or three people can give me an idea about stories for the newspaper.
However, in the spring, when the tourists return, Moab people disappear. I’m not sure if they have a supply of food to wait out the tourist season, or if I just can’t find any in the crowd of people visiting from Colorado’s western slope and the Wasatch Front.
I’m not expressing this to complain.
It’s just that our town is two different towns.
There is the quiet, small town where everyone knows each other, or knows your family, or at least knows your car. And then it is the bustling, busy town filled with unfamiliar folk.
To be completely honest: I like both.
All the new people in town give a certain level of energy that is infectious.
There are more things to do. More events to attend. More activities to enjoy. More languages to hear as I walk down the aisles of the grocery store.
There’s simply “more”.
And there is the added benefit of all those cars from out-of-state.
We play the license plate game in our family, but with the rules of Slug Bug.
For those of you who have no children, or who avoid any semblance of violence: Slug Bug is when you playfully hit someone when you see a Volkswagen bug.
When we see an out-of-state license plate, my daughter will punch my shoulder. One short walk through the grocery store’s parking lot can leave my arm bruised and my daughter exultantly happy.
As springtime approaches, I look forward to that increased frequency hum that accompanies the vibrancy of so many people so happy to be here.
But, ever so often I will spot a truck I know and lift two fingers from my steering wheel in an almost “peace sign” motion and have that wave returned.
I am comforted, that despite all the busy, bustling strangers – Moab is still my hometown.