Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why I blinked my headlights at you

I drive to work very early, when it is still dark. On my way in, I see a lot of idiots propelling thousands of pounds of steel, plastic, rubber, and gasoline down the road, weaving in and out of dozens of wives, husbands, parents, and children.

One particular category of idiots feels it doesn't need to signal lane-changes.

When this category does it in front of me, at night I'll blink my headlights off and on repeatedly; during the day, I'll flash my high-beams.

I assume these folks aren't among the nations brightest, so I'm sure some of them (if they notice it at all) dully wonder, "Huh?" Or something less articulate.

And I've always pictured that if they addressed the "Huh?" to me in person, I'd respond:
"I noticed you lunging and careening from lane to lane without signalling. I figured there could only be one of five reasons for this:
  1. You're drunk or on drugs
  2. You're falling asleep
  3. Your car's turn-signal is malfunctioning
  4. You are unaware of or don't care about the law requiring the user of turn-signals
  5. You are unaware or don't care that there are actually other cars driven by precious, irreplaceable human beings on the road with you
"In any of these cases, it seems to me that my flicking my lights is a polite, low-impact way of saying, 'Dude, either wake up, sober up, or wise up — whichever applies.' See, because these people you're so mindless of are my neighbors, or they could be my friends, or they could be my wife, my son, my daughter. And I want you to bring your game up."
This may seem peevish to you — especially if you drive a white car, in which case evidently your turn signal was disabled at the factory, or you feel that none of the laws of God, nature, or man apply to you. But I actually do have a deeper reason. I open it up a bit further here, but to approach it from a different angle, here 'tis:
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness. (Proverbs 11:10)

The blessing of upright men exalts a town,
But by the mouth of wicked men it is torn down (Proverbs 11:11, my translation)
And one from the brilliant John Adams:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.
See, I know not signaling lane-changes is, on the universal scale of things, relatively inconsequential. But honoring such laws is part of the fabric that holds society together. As spirituality and morality unravel, the fabric unravels. The liberal answer is to make more and more and more and more laws.

But in my mind, about 90% of those laws would be unnecessary if folks would just speak up, just apply social pressure — and not call a cop, a lawyer, or a legislator every time something goes awry.

Anecdote 1: Thirty years ago, if someone smoked near me in a restaurant, I could ask to be moved. Or I could complain to the owner, and ask for non-smoking sections. Restaurant owners were already voluntarily creating such things, because part of their clientele wanted it. But then legislators took away their freedom, robbed the market of its natural power to influence, and we have ever-growing piles of smoking laws. (I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, in case you're wondering.)

Anecdote 2: I was talking with a political candidate for a lower political office. She was black, and somehow we got onto quotas. She was for them, I was against them. She told me a story of a time she was denied a job because she was black. Taking her at her word, I said,
"See, I think that's appalling. If I had known you at the time, I would have been glad to confront the store owner. I would have been happy to tell him he wasn't going to be getting any more of my business. In fact, I would cheerfully have led a protest and carried a sign, to put societal and moral pressure on the idiot.

But I don't want the government telling him who he can and can't hire, or why. Because (as we've seen) if that happens, it eventually becomes impossible to hire good employees, and fire wretched ones.

Anecdote 3, from my long list of regrets: I was in a Walmart parking lot many years ago, getting into my car. Just a few feet away, a woman and her tubby little son were also getting into theirs. Well, except he didn't get right in. As she waited, he unzipped his pants, and urinated on the parking lot.

What I did do was stare, aghast, maybe (I don't recall) hoping she'd be shamed by my glare. What I should have done was holler, "Hey! Hortencia! There's a bathroom just 200 feet away inside the store! I'm sure little Guillermo can hold it that long... so take him there."

And so, having said all that, on the 0.0001% that you're one of those drivers who got a headlight-flick from me...

...that's why.


James Kubecki said...

Wow. Good rant. (I second it, of course.)

Another trend I've only noticed lately (maybe I'd missed it for years, maybe it's just an Indiana thing) is for drivers on a two-lane road to ride straddling the double yellow line until they think they're close enough to you coming the other way. Is it THAT hard to fit into your own lane? Have we become so lazy that we have to say, "wow, I could run off the road from not paying attention - I'll just err on the side of, er, the middle."

Connie said...

I'm a fan of, and faithful user of, turn signals--IN SPITE of the fact that our family vehicle is a WHITE mini-van. :-)

During our years in Dallas, we had to develop a sense of humor regarding this very matter. We concluded that the use of a turn signal was merely to alert all other drivers to begin their attempt to block your intended lane change. There was even a local newspaper comic where the driver told his passenger to "Cover me, I'm changing lanes"--the passenger was toting a shotgun! Only in Texas, right? Not! :-)

David said...

We have two white vehicles. I'm deeply offended. I'm thinking of charging you with a hate crime.

Colloquist said...

Ahem. My white minivan's turn signals work just fine, thankyouverymuch. I returned from dropping my kids at school every morning with my blood pressure at the explosion point, because apparently school zone laws don't apply to most drivers. Particularly if your child is about to be 3 minutes late for 3rd grade. We homeschool now, and the relief of knowing that we aren't having to face the idjits at school drop-off is an unexpected, added blessing!

Unknown said...

Ditto to all you said. Having traveled in the Phillipines where there may be 3 lanes, but clearly 6 cars can fit into them - in Egypt where NO ONE at ANY TIME puts their headlights on - not in the middle of the night - it's their "custom" (I'm not lying here), and in Germany where there are still places you can drive as fast as you darn well please - I actually "like" the drivers in the U.S. (most of the time) And in Honduras? Most people don't own a car so I won't have to worry about it :-)

Four Pointer said...

Hey Dan, you need to come to Knoxville sometime. When I moved here in '96, I thought maybe people got a ticket for using turn signals :)

Actually, the thing that cracks me up id the people that get about halfway into the other lane, and THEN turn on their blinker.

Sacchiel said...

A puddle won't hurt anyone, yeah right! :)

Jared said...

Great post, Dan. I am constantly irritated when I almost run into the back of some car that unexpectedly wanted to turn. Either they don't use turn signals because they want to be a nuisance, or they have absolutely no idea where they are going and feel the need to veer violently left or right on a whim.

On your peeing story:

My mom and dad stopped at a local gas station/mini-mart one afternoon for gas. My Dad then pulled up into one of the parking spaces in front to run in and get a coke. When he came out of the store an old run down car pulled up with two middle aged women in it. As one went inside for something, the other opened the passenger side door, hiked her skirt, and relieved her bladder right there next to my Dad's car. He claims he has never seen anything quite like that before and is likely--he hopes--never to again. I was speechless.

Jeremiah said...

Not to detract from your funny and also well-written piece, but I wanted to say good job on your choice of car headlights. DeLorean, nice.