texanist hi sign
What happened to the Texas hi sign?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: After a relocation to the Corpus Christi area from Austin, I find myself frequently driving on lonesome two-lane roads. What the hell happened to the Texas hi sign? On a stretch from Cuero to Bayside I received only 2 hi signs out of 21 cars.
H. Segrest
Corpus Christi

A: Two out of 21! Jiminy Goddam Cricket! All Texans worth their collective roadkill should be shocked and disheartened and then shocked again. To throw out 21 hi signs and get only 2 reciprocations amounts to a hi sign return rate of less than 10 percent, which is completely unacceptable. For the uneducated traveler, of whom there appear to be in the neighborhood of 90.47 percent too many, the hi sign—also known as the hidy sign, the one-finger wave (not that one finger, Little Bubba), the Medina wave, or the Texas wave—is an effortless gesture consisting of nothing more than the raising of the index finger to salute an oncoming motorist. The rules of engagement couldn’t be simpler: You give one, you get one, and vice versa. When executed properly, it is a deeply satisfying, if entirely fleeting, form of social interaction, a timeworn expression of the neighborly ties that bind, even when we’re hurtling past each other at 65 miles per hour. The hidy sign is not performed in crowded urban areas for obvious reasons (too many cars, too many tourists), but also because it is, in its purest form, a subtle acknowledgement of the lonesomeness of our desolate country roads. A properly executed hidy sign does a better job of making those roads less lonesome than all the twelve-disc changers, dashboard televisions, smart phones, and onboard talking navigators you can muster. And that’s the real reason the hidy sign is disappearing. The explosion of vehicular computing has caused such a wadding of the mental panties that it’s a miracle today’s motoring public notices anything that happens beyond the windshield. This is the wrong way to drive friendly (or safely). Perhaps, in addition to making it illegal to send text messages while driving, it’s high time for some legislation to enforce the hi sign.

Q: My father-in-law of seventeen years is generally a sweet man, but he’s prone to off-color comments. I really want to tell him how uncomfortable it makes me. Am I overreacting?
Name Withheld

A: It sounds as if your father-in-law is an old man whose material consists primarily of tin-eared attempts at working blue. If so, you should be advised that a flustered daughter-in-law is exactly what he’s fishing for. Whenever a person (usually an old man) is trying hard to get your goat, you need to be very careful not to give him your goat too freely, lest he never let go of your goat ever again. Expressing discomfort would serve only to tip him off to the current location of your goat (firmly in his grasp), thereby providing him with the gratification that he’s seeking, which in turn would fuel the fire and lead only to more foulmouthed blather. Hold on to your goat! The Texanist has learned over the years that old men are like old dogs: You can’t teach them new tricks. But you can, with a steadfastly bit tongue, sometimes discourage the tricks that aren’t funny.

Q: During backyard get-togethers at our house, my husband will wander off to the back corner of the yard and let loose with a big ol’ pee. He thinks this is perfectly acceptable behavior. What’s wrong with him?
Name Withheld

A: Sometimes when nature calls a man, he may take the call in a natural setting, such as a stand of shrubbery or behind a tree. At other times this is altogether improper, and the man, in this case your husband, must make every effort to seek indoor facilities. Knowing the difference between these two types of situations is critical. Having attended soirees of every ilk imaginable (an intimate dinner with Lady Bird Johnson one night, a fandango on the outskirts of Ciudad Acuña the next) and having relieved himself both indoors and out, the Texanist has developed a few handy rules for determining the propriety of alfresco elimination. (Note: These rules apply only to number one; it is a rare party indeed, and frankly one that the Texanist would rather not be invited to, at which open-air evacuation of the bowels is permissible.) First off, nearly any gathering that has no women at it, no matter where it is located, is a kosher setting for an outside pee. If the crowd is mixed, relative proximity to an accessible building is a good way to make the determination. If you are less than two hundred feet from an entrance, pissing in the bushes may appear willful and lewd; more than two hundred feet and it begins to seem pragmatic and manly. Another telling indicator is the sort of refreshments being served. If a keg is flowing and greasy brats are being devoured straight off the ends of plastic forks, go ahead and water the lawn. But if there are little bowls of almonds and olives on the tables and chilled white wine in real stemware, try to find a toilet. The particular situation you describe is hard to evaluate. With such wee information to go on, the Texanist is unable to make a clear judgment, though the details (gender of guests, proximity to house) seem to suggest that your hubby should be making his water inside.

Q: I like to comment on the weather. My office mate, who is from Maryland and at least a decade younger than me, has asked me to stop. How much weather is too much weather?
Name Withheld

A: What is wrong with people? Talking about Texas weather is the oldest pastime there is. It is the conversational caulk with which we fill in the gaps in the day’s discourse. Without weather talk the Texanist would find it nearly unbearable to ride an elevator, stand in any sort of line, get his hair cut, or attend neighborhood association or PTA-type functions. Like you, he fancies himself a shade-tree meteorologist, and this is a fact that will not change, no matter what anybody from Maryland says. If this co-worker of yours is going to continue making her home here, there are two things she’s going to have to gain an appreciation (or tolerance) for: the weather itself and those who like to talk about it.