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The Independent Online
SPRING has arrived in Totowa, New Jersey. You can be sure of that, because 80-year-old Joe Cerce, a retired machinist, is back in his favourite chair on his porch, waving at the drivers of any cars that pass, and shouting: "Hi, hi, hi".

He started waving to cars five years ago when he was recovering from a broken hip. Then it became a habit, and he does it from early morning until sunset. Many of the cars reply to his friendly greeting by honking back, and that is what has been upsetting the neighbours. "It's enough to drive you nuts," said a man who lives across the street, and his daughter added: "It's like Chinese water torture: drip, drip, drip." But Cerce says: "I'm not hurting anybody. If they beep, I have nothing to do with it."

The inalienable right of every American to sit outside his own home and wave at anyone he wants to has been debated by the town council, the courts and the police department. Last year, signs were posted along the street threatening fines for honking, and police cars camped outside Cerce's house to nab any offenders.

During the winter months, all was peace and quiet, but now the debates are starting again. "We haven't had any complaints this year, but the season's still early," police chief Robert Coyle told Reuters. "The truth is we've bent over backwards for him, but the neighbours deserve to live in peace."

As one of his close neighbours said: "If I didn't live here, I'd wave to him too. But there's two sides to every story, believe me."