You can recognise Yakuza in Japan by two things – missing fingers or finger joints and the wide berth that the rest of the citizens give them. I often wonder how my father would have been treated – he had a finger that had been frozen in a curve by contact with the wrong part of an electric dragline motor in the 1940’s and it made for an interesting handshake.
As far as gang sign recognition using the hands, I believe a good deal of it goes on in the United States – particularly on the west coast. Some of it is extended fingers, strange gestures, and secret meanings – some of it is simple pulling of triggers on handguns. All of these serve to let you know that you are seeing cultural diversity at its best.
Here in Australia we have the secret motorist’s sign that indicates some trenchant criticism of the other driver. Different states use different numbers of fingers, but the message is pretty universal.
Oddly enough, a thumbs-up is generally good, particularly if it is being exchanged between two motorists travelling in opposite directions. You can see it being practiced when they meet if one flashes their headlights briefly, and particularly if this flashing takes place down the road from an RBT or speed camera location.
For model makers at conventions I think we must also have a secret sign – something beyond the smell of paint and the blobs of dried glue all down our fronts. I propose a ceremonial cut that can be displayed to indicate that one is initiated into the mysteries. In this case the mystery of why a blade that will not dent balsa will cut fingers cleanly…Surgeons rarely achieve such precision and I know because I used to wield a scalpel on the unconscious myself.
At the very least, scratchbuilders should display a deep scratch somewhere – eyeglass frames, scalp, or groin depending upon where their basic interests lie. That, and a pocket of purloined coffee stirring sticks, should mark them in any convention.
R/C flyers and drone pilots could come with their heads bandaged up and one eye sewn shut to indicate the fact that they have graduated from hand-thrown balsa gliders to something with real destructive power with out developing any caution in the meantime.
Model railway enthusiasts could display a forefinger – they will be using it to push the expensive locomotive over the dead section of track anyway. Not only useful, but decorative…particularly if there is a soldering-iron burn on the end of it, and there will be…
No gang sign needed for the enthusiastic airbrush and spray paint expert. You’ll be able to hear their lungs wheezing and rattling from the other side of the hall. The odour of toluene that seeps from them when they burp will just be confirmation.
How shall we know a collector? Ah, that’s a problem, if they are the sort who does not modify their models. Perhaps just open the meeting by throwing a cardboard box into the bin and see who goes and picks it out again.