Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Does Driving Like a Jerk Make Someone a Bad Person?




I'm not sure what's happened to civility on the highway, but, for the most part, it's gone.

I don't think much about it until a motorist does something surprising, like, well, something nice.

Although I live in South Carolina, where motorists tend to be less aggressive and more accommodating, there still seems to be the absence of general goodwill and the we're-all-in-this-together feeling of camaraderie that was once in evidence on our roads.

Now it's a dog-eat-dog mentality that encourages behavior that is not only rude, but can often be dangerous.

Nowhere is such activity more prevalent than South Florida, where I lived for nearly 25 years. Drivers there give new meaning to the term "rude." Whether it's because so many are transplants from the Northeast, new arrivals from South America where driving is a contact sport, or simply tourists who figure the thousands of dollars spent on a Florida vacation entitles them to be jerks, South Florida's highways are an exercise in defensive driving. Rude, aggressive driving is contagious and it has reach epidemic proportions in South Florida.

But South Florida is simply a glaring example; such behavior is now the norm across the country.

Have we really become so self absorbed that we can't allow another car to merge into traffic ahead of us. Will six car lengths really make that great a difference in how quickly we reach our destination?

I've seen motorists guard their position in traffic with a relentless fierceness that they probably couldn't muster to protect their children from a midnight home invasion.

What prompted my thinking about this was a motorist in a blue Dodge Caravan, who slowed down and flashed his headlights at me, allowing me to merge onto I-85 earlier today. I sped up, pulled into the line of traffic ahead of him and gave him a wave of appreciation as I accelerated away.

Sadly, I can't remember the last time I experienced a motorist acting with such civility as this Caravan's driver.

On those rare occasions when someone does do something nice, I always acknowledge it with a smile and a wave. And in this, I am in the minority. I've stopped keeping track of how often a motorist who I have allowed into traffic ahead of me actually acknowledge my kindness; it so rarely happens. No, I'm not curing cancer by surrendering my position in traffic, but that's the point. It requires literally nothing from me: no effort, no energy and no cost.

Moreover, a little acknowledgment doesn't cost that motorist anything either.

Maybe I am longing for something that simply is beyond our me-myself-and-I culture.

Too bad.

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