Austin, Texas 12/20/2004
In our culture -- in most cultures -- we have numerous ways to wordlessly express our displeasure at the actions of another. Whether it be the one finger salute, the knife hand in the crook of the opposite arm or the forward stroke of the fingers along the bottom of the chin (or countless others) the gestures are unambiguous and well understood.
On the other hand, sometimes people are civil; the oft-maligned `random acts of kindness' are more common than we sometimes think (or perhaps we've heard the whole `it's all going to hell in a handbasket' argument so often we just assume that they're rare). As an example, my family and I was merging into a local expressway during afternoon rush hour and a BMW -- yes a Beamer -- moved over a lane to let us in. This was quite appreciated; unfortunately there is no single gesture of thanks in response that would be unambiguously understood.
A peace sign? No, some people might read it wrong. A simple `thumbs up'? No, not 'round these parts (it could be interpreted as `Gig 'em Aggies' so it wouldn't work here; in some places the interpretation would be even more challenging). A simple wave? Perhaps, but not sufficiently unambiguous.
Maybe if we had a way of expressing, "Gee, thanks. Your simple kindness is appreciated," we'd treat each other better. Just a thought.