An acquaintance from my distant past introduced me to a fun social guessing game he called “Wave or No Wave”. The game is simple: When you spot someone walking on the sidewalk as you’re driving around town, you must decide immediately whether or not you think that person will wave if you honk your horn at them. Then, do just that and see if they wave at you. You’d be surprised by the number of strangers who actually wave at you without even attempting to identify your vehicle. It’s quite addictive. This game only works in small towns, of course. If you do this in, say, New York, your horn would be lost in the cacophony of taxis, and passersby would completely ignore you.
I’ve taken to playing other social guessing games over the years. When in New York or other popular cities, in lieu of “Wave or No Wave”, I enjoy partaking of “Tourist or Not a Tourist”. There are two key accessories that I look for when playing this game: The shoes and the bag. With very few exceptions, you’ll have your answer within seconds by looking at those two things. In my hometown, the game evolved into “Student or Not a Student” while walking around the areas adjoining campus. It’s a no-brainer on weekdays (backpacks, ball caps, and sloppy ponytails), but it’s a fun challenge on the weekends. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to confirm your guess unless you accost the person you’re examining and ask them point blank. But you know I’d never have the chutzpah to do that.
My latest social guessing game, a variation of “Wave or No Wave”, has been the most satisfying yet because of its consistent, measurable results. I embark on an early morning run several days during the week (and when I say early, I mean 5:30 am, before the sun is up). I pass about a half dozen joggers every day. I’ve learned that joggers don’t say “good morning” to you; instead, they wave as they pass you, kind of like the way bikers acknowledge each other as they pass on the highway. Just as the bikers have an understanding (Harleys only wave to Harleys), I’ve discovered that runners also seem to have an understanding: Only the men will wave.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why this is the case. Women just won’t wave. In fact, women won’t even look at you. So does that mean there's something wrong with me? I wave at everyone, no gender discrimination. Yet, without exception, only the men wave back to me. I'm so fascinated by this that I wonder how I can explore it further. It would have been a great topic for a thesis, don't you think?
My reason for getting back into running, however, was not to perform social experiments on my neighbors, but rather to train for the upcoming 5k for the BlogHer convention in New York. I’m more nervous about the race than I am for any other part of the weekend, but that’s because I’m more or less a sidekick in the blogging portion of this adventure. My prolific blogging friend Michelle convinced me to attend, so I convinced her to run. I’ll be working on a new game while I’m there. I’m hoping to come up with something that will allow me to determine first whether or not the person is a tourist, and then whether or not they wave at me. Bonus points if they wave while jogging. Further bonus points if they’re a student. If they also happen to be a woman, I'm buying a lottery ticket.
The 5k is Friday morning, August 3rd, at 6:30 am (I’ll get an extra hour of sleep!). Be sure to cheer me on from afar. Or, if you happen to be in the city, meet me at the finish line. Be sure to wave at me. Or don't. Either way, you'll still be a part of the game.