Long before Covid-19 and racial injustice dominated our nation’s headlines, I noticed a disturbing trend taking over America’s roadways.
That’s not to suggest this trend indirectly led to the rising tension we now find in America but I will say this, it certainly didn’t help matters.
Just like anything else in life, this lesson involves a simple gesture, one that can ultimately make one’s day… or ruin it.
Hear me out.
You’re driving along the highway headed to work, traveling at a pretty healthy speed, safe… but over the limit for sure. All of the sudden, from out of nowhere, a car directly in front of you that needs to get into your lane does so without warning. No turn signal, no nothing. Your blood begins to boil. You notice the car trying to change lanes in time. You brake safely and allow the car ahead of you to merge, doing your job as an upstanding citizen and relatively considerate driver.
You look through the rear window of the car in front of you, still stewing, awaiting a gesture, a little thank you, a common courtesy wave for the buttinsky.
Now… foresee two scenarios.
The first one occurs when the person who just cut you off does not offer the socially, obligatory thank you wave. He just goes on about his business. I mean, he didn’t see your car, didn’t even acknowledge your existence. Why would he, or should he, have the common courtesy to admit he needed to get over the moment you allowed him to? Nope, this is his road and nobody else’s. No thank you, no nothing. Just your elevated blood pressure.
Well, now you’re just in a shitty mood. This fuckin’ driver in front of me cut me off. I had to slam on my brakes. Suddenly the music you’re listening to doesn’t sound as good and now you’re on your way into work to most likely bitch for the next hour to the only three people who will listen about how this motherfucker in front of you cut you off and didn’t even have the common courtesy to wave a thank you. The nerve!
So now you’re relaying your story to people who were nowhere near the incident and passing your bullshit along to them. And now they’re in a shitty mood.
Now let’s move on to scenario B: same situation with the person trying to merge, however, this time, the driver who cut you off waves thank you. He admits in his moment of haste that he was in the wrong and makes a sincere effort, a mere raising of his hand to thank his fellow man, another citizen of the road sharing life’s most certainly big enough highway. Imagine that.
Now, you’re probably still a little miffed that this guy almost ran you off the road but at least he said thanks for letting him in. You’re upset but not nearly as upset as you would have been or maybe you’re even gracious, uplifted, ready to go about your day.
Someone who works in a bank once told me that bank tellers say hello to you immediately as you walk through the door because it reduces the likelihood of you robbing that bank. I’m not sure there’s science to prove this theory but if a simple hello decreases the chance of getting a gun aimed at my forehead, count me the hell in.
With all that being said, you never know who is packing heat these days. The next time you cut someone off in traffic, you never know who is going to angrily chase after you at worst or at best, present you with their middle finger.
I always give the courteous, thank you wave whether a car lets me merge or not. To this day, even with all this stress and strife, I’m astonished when the cars I allow to merge ahead of me fail to follow the same protocol. It’s common courtesy, like holding the door open for someone, giving your seat up for an elderly person on the bus or allowing the person behind you with only three groceries to check out in front of you when you have a cart full of them.
All I’m saying is this. Be courteous to one another. The road is not yours. This country isn’t either. It’s ours, all of ours. We breathe the same air, shop at the same stores and sure as shit drive on the same roads.
So, the next time you either safely merge or need to do so in a hurry, be sure to raise your right hand in front of your rearview mirror acknowledging the other person’s good deed with your own in return.
We are all in different cars driving on the same road, people. Consider it one small wave for man, one giant gesture for mankind. It might not cure coronavirus or put an end to racial strife but it might just make someone else’s day a little better.
And that’s a good damn start.
For more things wholeheartedly wrong with America, see Vol. 1: Water Fountain Protocol