Life Lessons from the Man Who Waves at Cars Every Day at 5 AM

I’ve been living in my apartment for less than a year. About one month in, I started hearing honking — early in the mornings. I realize my apartment is on a busy-ish street, but I kept wondering why I was hearing cars honks that started at five in the morning.

One morning as I was working on my laptop, I peered out the window and saw this guy from the window frame store next to my building. There he was, standing in the dark, waving. He waved at anyone and everyone who passed. A bus, a cab, motorcycle, even people on bikes.

He patiently waits.

The drivers, who’d see the man waving, would politely honk their horns to say hello. It’s a short succession of beeps, rather than the long, drawn-out, road-rage-filled, I’m-going-to-kill-you honk. Either way, a honk is a honk.

Then, it’s time to wave.

I was immediately annoyed.

How dare he interrupt my quiet time

Because I’m an early riser, the constant stream of honks interrupted my morning work time.

My mind tried to make sense of it all. Why is he waving? Who is he waving at? Does he know everyone on this damn street? Who is this guy anyway? Doesn’t he have work to do? Doesn’t realize the honking is annoying?

Of course, after I noticed it, it was forever bookmarked in my mind, which made it damn near impossible to ignore it. It’s like suddenly noticing when every other word that comes out of your new coworker’s mouth is, “you know?” You can’t just unnotice it.

Help! Thoughts on a loop

This seemingly small annoyance has turned into a inner battle that would play out over the next five months.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it lasted a whole five months. It was during this time that I mapped out this weird, nonsensical thought process that ate up way too much of my brain space.

But maybe I needed the five months to figure out how to be at peace with it. The man who waves at cars tested my limits for patience, compassion, and just letting it all go.

Thought 1: I’m going to tell him to stop waving

One of my first thoughts to remedy this problem was to march right up to him and say, “Can you please be more respectful of the tenants in this here building right next to you? Constant honking is just not cool this early in the morning.”

On second thought: Do I really care all that much? I’m already awake. It’s not like he’s waking me up. I have also pass this person every single day on my way to the subway. Awkward.

Thought 2: I’m going to send an email

Approaching him in person seemed too aggressive. So I decided to send an email to the business. I typed it out in my head:

“Dear Window Store Manager,

Did you know there’s a guy who waves at the cars passing by in the mornings? I live in the building next door and am subjected to this nonsense every morning. Can you please tell him to stop?”

On second thought: Who has time to write an email? What if they don’t even check it? What if they don’t respond? What if they think I’m a crabby old bitch? Forget it.

Thought 3: Rally my neighbors

I thought about approaching my neighbors to ask if they were bothered by the honking. It would also justify that I’m not alone in this. I wanted to be pumped about my future decision that would tell him to put his hand down (forever).

On second thought: I’m almost certain I’m the only one in my building who is awake at that ungodly hour. I’m pretty certain my neighbors aren’t suddenly jolted awake by the beep-beep-beeps.

What’s really going on?

I basically rotated from thought one to three. Then, I realized how much I was obsessing over this petty honking problem and thought, what’s the deeper issue here? Why does it bother me this much?

I’d like to consider myself more evolved than this. I have better things to do than obsess over a nice man waving at cars in the morning. I meditate, for Christ’s sake!

The inward spiral

Small annoyances can sometimes spiral out of control. It’s a slippery slope. This is what can sometimes happen with your significant other, people at work, friends, or when you’re down on yourself.

It’s the inner dialogue that you think you don’t have control over. Oh, the mental trickery.

This one instance is just an example of the many millions of things that my mind tells me not to accept.

But, what if I try to let it go? What if I stop caring about it? In the case of the man who waves at cars, I told myself a new story.

The waving man’s new narrative

I began thinking about why this dude waves at the cars passing by. He’s a hardworking fellow who just wants to say hi to people who are driving to work.

I also thought, maybe this is the only part of his day that he enjoys.

What if the cars passing by also relish in that small connection by saying hello (albeit with their horns) to this guy each morning?

I also looked up the waving man’s business on Yelp and learned that it’s been in Oakland for 30 years. (Thirty years of waving?) Clearly, I’m the new crabby neighbor encroaching on his turf.

So, while I can’t say I’m embracing the honks, I just put on my headphones or step out if I need to do work in the morning.

I try to adopt this mode of thinking when I have new problems, annoyances, and challenges that need to be dealt with. Less stewing, more letting go. Amirite?

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