Coexisting with Civility

ChooseCivilityLet me explain what prompted this post. It’s been a few months now, but it’s something I saw on my way to work that made me laugh. I had just taken the exit from Rt 100 east onto I-95 south, and was approaching the ramp full of cars blending in on the ramp coming in from Rt 100 west. People began doing what people always do in this situation—they started to protect the little piece of road reserved just for their vehicle. They won’t let you in, because then you get there 20 feet before they do. They have the right of way. It’s their road, damn you.

I know this rule. Of course I know this rule, because everybody knows this rule. I have even, on occasion, enforced this rule. Stupid, I know. Childish, for sure. But, what can I say. You’ve done it too, haven’t you? Uh-huh. . . Anyway, on this particular day, I was being very patient. I had coffee, and there was a good song on the radio, and I was happy. A Jeep flew past me on the left, and then tried to pass the van that was in front of me, and that’s what set them off. The two vehicles inched closer and closer together, nearly trading paint, waiting for just the right moment when the more brazen of the two could floor it and merge recklessly onto I-95 ahead of the other. Victory!

Absolutely, it was fun watching this contest. But the very best part, by far—by a country mile—was their choice of bumper sticker. The Jeep had one of those “Choose Civility” stickers, and the van had a “Coexist” sticker. Priceless.

But you know, it got me thinking about traffic etiquette. There is an intersection of two roads that qualify as “the back way” to work that a lot of people use. Two of the streets feed a lot of vehicles into a four-way stop. Your turn, his turn, your turn, his turn, your turn, MY turn. But at this particular intersection, the traffic moves more efficiently than at a roundabout. I just have to slow down a bit, nod at the guy in the Toyota Tacoma, and go. Smooth.

Want to mess that up? Add a Honda Accord coming the other way from one of the other two stop signs. That’s when the trouble begins, because now a nod is insufficient. Now, you have to make eye contact. Is he nodding to me, or the other guy? No, wait, he’s just checking to see which way I want to go. So you want me to. . . oh wait, now he’s looking at the Accord. I look too. That driver’s looking at the radio. Now, Tacoma nods to me, and I take the signal and go. NO STOP. Geez, are you gonna go now? I flash the lights. Tacoma starts through the intersection. Accord missed him by inches. Sigh.

Now, we’ve all suffered through driver’s education or the written test, and we know the car on the right has the right of way. So here’s the start of a joke. “Four cars approach a four-way stop at the same time.” Which one of those cars is on the right? All of them! Bing! Bing! Bing! Who goes first? The pickup truck, that’s who.

Here’s why. The gentlemen in Buick behind the super dark glasses is focused on performing the perfect stop, signaling the turn and waiting for the blinker to blink sixteen times before deciding whether it’s safe to proceed. Nissan minivan is waving her hand like she’s swatting flies. She’s hoping that every other driver will go before her, leaving the intersection perfectly empty for her to safely pass. The lime green Civic has vaped inside with the windows up, and now he can’t see out the windshield or past the extra-large brim of his DC hat pulled down over his eyebrows.

The F-250 hits the accelerator, the truck rocks to the right, black smoke rises from the 10-inch diameter smokestack protruding from the center of his truck bed. The roar of the diesel engine scares the kids in the back of the minivan. The other three will still be waiting at the stop sign five minutes later.

Drive safely, my friends.

 

 

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