Blood (Boils) On The Highway: Your Niceness Endangers Us All

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:46 am

This will be a familiar scenario for many of my readers, but I imagine that my take on it may be somewhat unique.

So Margaret and I are sitting in my car at the bottom of our street, where it is bisected by a major thoroughfare, 1st Avenue South, also known as State Route 509. The speed limit on 1st at our longitude is 45 miles per hour, and plenty of motorists seem to take that as a polite suggestion rather than a matter of local ordinance, so cars are rocketing past us in both directions at a clip ranging between respectable and downright scary. We are waiting to make a left onto 1st. Across the street from us is another vehicle, who arrived at their end of the intersection shortly before us, also waiting to make a left turn but, naturally, heading in the opposite direction from us. Since we were last to arrive at what is typically a fairly busy intersection, I settle in for a bit of a wait, chatting with Margaret and searching the radio for something to while away the time.

Just then, something catches my eye. I look up to see the driver of the car across the way gesticulating at me in the universal semaphore for, “go on, go ahead!”

What the fuck?

I got to the intersection last. There is no physical way that our intended path could be safe to pursue without hers being clear as well. Her car seems to be running, has not suffered a flat and is not currently on fire.

So why the hell is she sitting there like an idiot, waving me through ahead of my turn, while oncoming traffic draws ever closer?

I mouth as clearly as I can, “JESUS CHRIST, WOULD YOU JUST GO??

After which, she finally gives up trying to help an obviously under-appreciative Visigoth such as myself and putts imperiously out onto 1st. Shortly thereafter I am able to make my left turn in the other direction and off we go.

Another classic example, which took place only hours later: I’m zipping down an on-ramp onto a state highway. In my driver’s side mirror I see a fast-approaching sedan, moving too quickly by my estimate for my 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine to safely outrace to the ramp’s insertion point onto the highway. There’s plenty of room behind the sedan, though; no other cars in sight. So I reduce my rate of acceleration to let it pass.

But for some reason, said sedan does not leave the visual range of my mirror. Growing concerned—and quickly running out of on-ramp—-I slow down further. Another glance at the mirror. It’s still there!

Has some mischievous art student painted an approaching vehicle onto my mirror as some sort of trompe l’oeil practical joke? Has light begun to bend strangely in the immediate vicinity of my vehicle, perhaps the result of some sort of tetrion particle anomaly, allowing me to see the car in my rearward-facing mirror even though it has long passed in front of me? Has a leaky exhaust manifold left me in the hallucinatory stage of carbon monoxide toxicity?

Why, no! What has actually happened is that the driver of the car behind me has taken it upon himself to slow down to let me in, instead of letting me make adjustments to my speed and acceleration, as is customary and expected for those who are entering the highway in deference to those who are already on it. My natural and lawful instinct to slow down at the sight of another vehicle quickly overtaking mine has subsequently caused the driver of said vehicle to decelerate still further so as to allow me to enter the highway ahead of him.

By the time one of us (me) manages to break out of this ridiculous feedback loop, we are both going about thirty-six miles per hour in a sixty zone, with aggravated motorists cutting around and zooming by impatiently in the lefthand lane while the two of us feebly struggle to get our mutual automotive shit together.

This type of person invariably looks a trifle miffed when you don’t tip them a little thank-you wave for their efforts.

I don’t know how often this happens in other communities, but here in the Puget Sound region this is a fairly common occurrence: people violating the rules of the road in the name of “courtesy” and “neighborliness”….despite the fact that such behavior is “dangerous” and could “get people killed”.

I often leave little Public Service Announcements here on my blog for those whom I feel most desperately need them. This is primarily an exercise in catharsis, but there is a small chance that one of these clueless do-gooders might stumble across Uncle Andrew dot Net whilst scouring teh Intarwebs for something else….probably Erin Esurance porn. So, based on the assumption that this may happen (in fact, that it already indeed has, just now), allow me, Dear Reader, to offer my personal input on your driving philosophy.

There are, of course, much worse things to be on the highways and byways of this great nation of ours than too nice. Being a drunk, for instance; or an aggressive asshole. Or a homicidal maniac. So I don’t mean to imply that you have sunk to the level of this sort of human hemorrhoid through your misplaced kindness.

On the other hand, let us entertain no fantasies about this: THE RULES OF THE ROAD HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED FOR THE SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY OF EVERYONE. If one person violates them, even in the name of spreading sunshine and joy everywhere they go, then we might as well throw all of the rules out the window, because at that point NO ONE CAN TRUST ANYONE ELSE TO BEHAVE IN A PREDICTABLE MANNER BEHIND THE WHEEL.

Chaos and anarchy will ensue. Mashed fenders, burning wreckage, twenty years of darkness, the works. All so that you can feel like you’re brightening up the corner where you are.

Look, niceness is nice; no doubt about it. However, when it comes to the interaction of multi-ton hunks of metal and plastic hurtling along at high rates of speed, common sense and attention to established convention are even nicer. A little more of the latter would actually provide a synergistic enhancement to the former. Give it a try sometime. Motorists everywhere will thank you.

5 Responses to “Blood (Boils) On The Highway: Your Niceness Endangers Us All”

  1. Val Says:

    Not to mention the fact that should you take Nancy Nice up on her kind “after you” offer, and an accident should result, YOU would be at fault because you did not have the right of way. Nope. Not even the special dispensation of the cheery wave from Nancy Nice would absolve you of the responsibilities and rules as laid out in the REvised Code of Washington (RCW) or the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). And Nancy Nice would turn into Nancy Nasty and you’d be on the wrong end of a lawsuit!

  2. Uncle Andrew Says:

    That is an excellent

  3. Val Says:

    Alan saw this quite often in his former profession. We have much the same problem trying to make a left turn towards town onto the highway, and have gotten very good at passive/aggressively ignoring the gesticulations of the well-meaning folks on the opposite side of the highway. I can’t SEE you…lalalalalalalalalala…

  4. SheriHi Says:

    Why is this happening more and more? I’m trying to make an unprotected left and the idiot coming towards me STOPS to let me through. It’s the stupidest, most dangerous thing ever. And I actually had someone flick me off for not taking their “kindness”.

  5. Uncle Andrew Says:

    And I actually had someone flick me off for not taking their

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