Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has more than 100 mastheads across Australia. Today's is written by ACM national agriculture writer Chris McLennan.
There was a time when the raised finger from the steering wheel was considered a cute country greeting.
Today it is a necessity.
Our road network hasn't kept up with the amount of vehicles on the road.
On our congested roads, the raised finger is the all-clear so you can sneak your vehicle from a car park or cross road while they pause to let you in.
The country driver would reserve the raised finger for someone they met along a country road.
My Dad would raised a finger from both hands on the steering wheel if they were a mate, or someone he knew well.
Everyone knew each other's cars and utes as well as they knew their own.
I wouldn't have a look at the oncoming vehicle if it was a one finger job, but I knew to have a look if it was the double digit.
That wonderful country courtesy is now factored in by local governments forced to make do with little.
My country town is now called peri-urban.
It is close enough to Melbourne to attract folk trying to escape lockdowns and the traffic snarl to help create a snarl of their own.
Developers might have to put some money aside for a park, and governments have to consider a new school or health centre but the roads are pretty much left to look after themselves.
People need somewhere to live.
Once productive farm paddocks are now sprouting lookalike squarish homes on shrinking block sizes.
The kids have to kick the footy on the road, there's only enough room in the backyard for one of those windup clothes lines.
My town only "works" now because of the good nature of its citizens.
There is an unwritten rule today on how to behave when driving in the town centre.
Most people avoid the place during school drop-off and pick-up times
In the city, you will often see a dramatic wave of the hand, and perhaps a nod of the head if someone kindly lets you into their lane.
I do a bit of city driving, and mostly city drivers are pretty good, but they are not trained like the country folk.
In my town, the traffic even pauses to let someone exit KFC.
Perhaps we understand they have to get the nuggets home before they go cold, and it could be us in that situation soon enough.
The rules are fairly simple.
You can't enter a line of stationary vehicles even if there's a gap.
You must be signalled first but the last car in the line.
A raised finger will do it.
But only one.
And if you are grumpy, you don't have to do even that. But then everyone will immediately know you are grumpy and take note.
The next person in line has to let in the next car, you are free to move up.
It is good manners to indicate with a wave (and a mouthed 'thank you') before you drive into the gap
You only let in one car, the person who lets in half a dozen can be honked by the ones waiting in line behind them to remind them of the rule.
If no-one let in the car, you could be waiting for a long time.
Many minutes if it's a school pick-up time.
There's not a lot of country left in my country town, this kindness I enjoy.
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