When my high school classmates obtained a driver’s license, it was not uncommon to hear a teacher opine, “Oh, they must be having a sale at Sears.”
Judging by the deplorable examples of road etiquette I’ve witnessed, maybe the teachers weren’t so far off about the low bar set by testers.
I have pontificated about slow drivers, speed demons and motorists who think turn signals are the Mark of the Beast. But today I’d like to vent about intersections.
Instructions about right-of-way are readily available, but most drivers treat them as if they’re as obscure as silverware protocol for hosting the Duke of Wellington. I suspect that regardless of whether motorists are listening to Adele, Garth Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Led Zeppelin or Jay-Z, they have a dash of Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” careening between their neurons.
When approaching an intersection with no traffic light, I tend to slow down, so there is no question who arrived first. But circumstances are not always so clear-cut.
One website suggested that when multiple vehicles arrive at an intersection simultaneously — and you can’t depend on everyone obeying the rules — eye contact can be a useful indicator of driver intent.
Sadly, what I usually see is befuddled drivers reciting, “Lefty loosey, righty tighty … er, leaves of three leave it be … spring forward … um, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ …”
The same website indicated that it is also OK for one driver to motion another to proceed through the intersection, but I am leery of deference contests.
I am reminded of the vintage comic strip “Alphonse and Gaston” (1901-1937). The two Frenchmen were sickeningly polite, and hijinks ensued as the pair invariably got into an infuriating “No, after you” exchange.
I fear that if the other driver changes his mind or an unexpected motorist gets involved, the phrase “See ya in the funny papers” would be replaced with “See ya in the obituaries.”
Road rage can overflow when there’s an impasse, but tried-and-true gestures don’t work with some of these mental giants. (“That fellow needs … a splint. Mildred, I’ll leave the car parked in front of this firetruck and take him one …”)
It’s almost enough to make you ban perpendicular streets and resign yourself to a lifetime of wistfully wondering what’s going on with all those unreachable parallel roadways. (“Maybe … maybe those neighborhoods have possums that actually know how to cross the road.”)
Intersections with traffic lights are equally nerve-wracking. I keep getting stuck behind people who are mesmerized with their cellphone long after the light turns green. Cellphone lost its charge? No problem! Get out the Ouija Board and have a long chat with Alexander Graham Bell!
If I have rolled to a complete stop at a red light, with aspirations of making a left turn, the oncoming driver waits me out like I’m going to snap and go demolition derby on him. I’ve tried my best to appear less intimidating. I’ve spent a fortune on moisturizer and Fred Rogers sweaters. Maybe I should switch my “I brake for flying insects” bumper sticker to the front of the car.
Yes, I can think of worse things than more frequent re-certification of drivers.
“I got my license renewed and they threw in a Kenmore washer! Dang! I forgot to strap it into the back of the pickup truck! See ya in the State Farm “Hall of Shame.”
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and the author of Yes, Your Butt Still Belongs in Church. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.