One odd tradition that I inherited from my Dad was an automatic response to return the waves of my fellow travelers on the Highway of Life. - or on any highway or boulevard or side street for that matter.

For some reason, when driving Dad had a tendency to honk the car’s horn while making turns. This wasn’t terribly frequent, but neither was it uncommon. Let’s just say it happened with some regularity. And it couldn’t have been the result of poor steering wheel design – because it happened in every car he owned. So, to save himself embarrassment (and a possible unpleasant encounter) Dad instructed us that we should all wave our hands whenever he honked the car horn. And that’s what we did. Automatically. Without thinking.

The horn would honk, and Dad, Mom, Gram, and however many kids might be squeezed into whatever station wagon he happened to own at the time would all immediately begin waving enthusiastically at whomever and whatever happened to be around us – pedestrians or fellow vehicular passengers alike. Looking back, it must have looked pretty weird – a honking car full of kids all waving in different directions at different people. Or sometimes at no people at all – just waving at the outside world.

Kinda like we were in our our own private parade float. (Maybe he should of given us handfuls of penny candy to toss out at the same time.) And usually, these people waved right back to us. And probably spent the rest of their day just trying to figure out who the heck were those people who were waving at them. “They looked strange, Martha, but they sure acted friendly….”

Which brings me to my own story.

I was delivering mail last week. The main street on my route, Roberts Road, is undergoing road improvements. The Village of Bridgeview is putting in sidewalks along all of its major roads, and so driveways, curbs and gutters are all being rebuilt as well. As I drove from my side streets onto and off Roberts Road, I had to navigate around construction workers, construction vehicles, and all those “wooden horses” that control traffic.

At one intersection, my entrance onto Roberts Road was partially blocked by a big cement-mixing truck. Rather than perform a three-point U-turn (something understandably frowned upon for safety reasons, given the limited visibility of our delivery trucks) I decided to swing over to the left (the oncoming lane) and squeeze by between the truck and the curb.

As I was creeping into the gap and checking clearances, I noticed the driver of the cement mixer waving at me enthusiastically. Being conditioned to be a “waver” myself since childhood, I naturally waved back – equally enthusiastically, as I crossed in front of his truck.
Then --- “BOOM!”

And then it dawned on me that the driver’s wave was perhaps more of the “attention-getting” kind rather than the “friendly-fellow-driver” type. And although I had almost successfully squeezed through the gap, I didn’t quite get all the way through. My left rear tire (remember, postal trucks are right-hand drive, so this would be the rear “passenger side” wheel) had gone axle deep into the freshly poured cement of a new curbside gutter.

I was stuck.
And the ditch was over eighteen inches deep.
And the whole construction crew decided to take a break and see just what kind of mess the mailman had gotten himself into this time.
And just how he was going to get out of it.

Embarrassing as it was, getting out actually wasn’t much of a problem. The crew foreman called around the small Cat-dozer with it’s bucket attached to get in behind me and, using the lip of the bucket, lift my truck’s back end up high enough so that between a gentle push from him and an equally gentle pull from my good right rear wheel, I could pull out and get all four wheels on solid ground.

From there, my truck was treated to a thorough washing down of the frame and undercarriage by a hose hooked up to the cement truck – a safe distance down the road so that the water wouldn’t run back into the newly made hole and spoil the cement pothole that would have to be quickly repaired..

No damage done. Except to my pride. And the entire crew was great about the extra work I caused them. They said the delay was worth it just to get a story like that to tell everyone.

I see them everyday out there now. You’d think that they wouldn’t recognize me in the Groucho Marx glasses disguise I’ve been wearing lately. But everyday, at least one of them straightens up from their cement laying chores and waves at me and calls out a warning. “Hey, Mailman, be careful. We’re laying fresh cement today!”

And I wave back.

Sheepishly.