January 3, 2020
Hello again Maple People,
Here in Vermont, we drivers are conditioned to be courteous with each other on the road, sometimes even too courteous. On several occasions, I have been involved in a “courtesy dual” with another driver, for instance at a 4-way stop intersection. The hand motioned, behind the wheel “dialogue” goes something like this: “You were first so you go…no. I have all day so be my guest…thanks anyway but, really, it’s your turn…OK, I’ll take you up on that”. This inevitably ends with mutual acceptance and a near crash when both finally go at once.
On the other hand, not so with the courtesy angle in other regions. A few days ago I ran into a friend who grew up in Manhattan where highway discourtesy is legend. Mike (not his real name) said that he recently made a turn into heavy traffic and almost collided with another motorist entering from a different direction. It was one of those situations where no highway rule seemed to apply. The near miss triggered an immediate laying on of the horn and a rude hand gesture from Mike…related with a “that’s just what y’do in a case like this” sort of tone. He also said the other guy reciprocated immediately, a windshield-clear message that they both grew up in the same neighborhood!
This story ended, though, in true O. Henry fashion. Just before they headed off into driver oblivion, Mike suddenly realized that they both had broad smiles on their faces directed at, who else?…each other!
And those, my friends, are two tales of driving behavior from around the countryside…habits steeped richly and worn like a badge of honor.