Front Porch: More courtesy needed out on our wild roads

As this newspaper’s resident self-appointed curmudgeonly old person, it is incumbent upon me to be sure the rest of you are behaving properly. When the offenses pile up, it’s time to speak.

What has piqued my concern of late is your perfectly awful behavior behind the wheel, and I would like you to stop – immediately – doing several things.

To start with, when you are accelerating as you enter the freeway, it is your job to yield to oncoming traffic (specifically, me). You are the one doing the merging into the flow of traffic that is already at speed. You are not authorized to shoot into traffic all willy-nilly, as if all freeway space is open and there for your taking. Sure, it would be nice if those of us in the right-hand lane would make room for you, and we often do, but it’s not always convenient or even possible. And we’ve got the law on our side, so stop feeling entitled to access my lane in your all-fired hurry whenever you wish.

Next, if there’s road construction or some kind of congestion requiring you to move from your blocked lane into my still-moving lane and I make room for you, be sure to give me that nice little thank-you wave in your rearview mirror. Not only is it polite, it makes me inclined to do it again. No wave and the next guy needing access to my lane is likely to suffer for your sins. Pay it forward.

And should I, on those rare occasions that such things occur, perchance make a driving error that causes you pause, feel free to beep your horn to call my attention to what I’m doing so that I can self-correct. But should the careless move take place before you can warn me (and provided everyone’s OK afterward), do not retroactively employ your horn or creep up on my back bumper in that temper-tantrum way that you do. So unattractive.

I must give some attention to your digits as well. In stressful traffic situations you seem unduly proud of your middle phalanx and seem compelled to display it apparently for your fellow drivers to admire and appreciate as much as you clearly do. While it is quite a useful part of your hand overall, for aesthetic balance if nothing else, it really isn’t all that important as a digit. Really, it’s the only one of the five that doesn’t have a name other than “middle,” which is really just a geographic location. Thumb, forefinger, ring finger, pinkie – all with names and status. Middle finger, not such a big deal. If you want to show off, how about just doing a thumbs-up or a “we’re No. 1” hand gesture? It will display a better part of you, all things considered.

But back to moving violations. When you make a left turn on any street or highway (or a right turn, for that matter), stay in your lane. When turning left, turn into the left-hand lane. Turning right, stay in the right lane. Don’t swing wide. Not only can you be cited for it, but it’s a danger to other vehicles that actually have the right of way in the lanes you’ve ignorantly blown into. You can change lanes once it’s safe to do so. Read the drivers manual if you don’t believe me.

Also, remove yourself posthaste from the left lane on the freeway unless you are doing at least the speed limit. You browsers out for a casual drive need to stay out of my way. I’ve got places to get to and I’m tired of weaving around you.

Finally, language. In traffic your expressed view of my ancestry or whose mother I may have been intimate with is rather irrelevant to the situation. It does not speak well of you. If I changed lanes without signaling, you spewing forth names of my anatomical parts doesn’t change that fact.

Frankly, I think epithets, when properly deployed, aren’t bad in and of themselves. I have surprised myself when, say, I’ve slammed my finger in a drawer and heard pouring from my mouth adjectives and nouns strung together in most colorful ways. A good stress reliever. But it seems to me that profanity is one of those things best expressed in solitude and not to be shared – especially at high speed and while maneuvering a 4,000-pound projectile at high speed.

So straighten up out there. Don’t make me come back and do this again. There are so many other behaviors that need correcting, and there’s only so much space available to do it in.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@comcast.net. Previous columns are available at www.spokesman.com/columnists.

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