The Great Australian Salute

Photo: John Ross

Australians are laconic beings. Why over-exert yourself when a minimum of movement will do?

And so it is when driving those vast distances in the Australian Outback; where many a lonely driver can greet an oncoming motorist with the great Australian salute.
It has become the trend on those long, lonely roads to signal to the oncoming vehicle when you pass; to acknowledge the great trip you are both doing, and to signal your pleasure at seeing another human being along the seemingly infinity of an apparently endless road.

The salute between drivers cements the relationship that the two persons, who are likely to be unknown to each other, share. It is a comment on the adventure of exploring Australia, and an expression of solidarity with the explorers of old who really did risk their lives in order to open up this splendid, but remote, country.

You would think the importance of having such a fleeting acquaintance with another person would be celebrated with wild gesticulations, or the honking of horns, or the flashing of lights; but, no. Australians aren’t that expressive, or, at least, not outside the realms of sport, for which it is okay to express emotion to appreciate an heroic act, or a win, or to display disgust at a loss or, worse still, an umpire’s foible.

No. In keeping with the Australian culture of understatement the Great Australian Salute is merely a simple gesture.

With both hands hanging onto the steering wheel, a device that could quite possibly be redundant on those long, straight roads, the best way to salute your soul mate, that oncoming driver, is to simply raise one finger of acknowledgement as you pass; or perhaps two fingers if you are in a frenzied frame of mind.

One finger half-heartedly raised from the steering wheel is all that is needed, as its expression is fully understood and appreciated.

The Great Australian Salute, just one finger raised that speaks of a powerful camaraderie between those lonely beings who get out and take on this great big country of ours.

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