Jewish World Review April 15, 2002 / 4 Iyar, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Some things never change | Struggles of life and death rage on around the world but life at home just keeps on keeping on. American forces risk their lives as they continue their search for al Qaeda terrorists through the caves of Afghanistan while American drivers risk everybody's life as they continue to yammer on their cell phones, weave in and out of traffic, cut other drivers off and generally operate their vehicles as if no one else were on the street.

Remember turn signals? Well, it seems today's drivers don't know where to locate that little switch near the steering column which operates them. Either that, or drivers are lazy...or thoughtless...or stupid...or just don't give a flying fajita...or maybe all of the above. Or maybe turn signals are just not considered "cool" by most drivers because they (the turn signals) represent parental authority or something. Use a turn signal and you're an old establishment fuddy-duddy. You might as well be wearing a suit and tie. And you're probably a Republican.

Here's another theory -- perhaps the "meaning" of a turn signal has changed and I am simply not aware of it. It's possible, I guess. There are a great many things in life that have changed without me knowing it. For instance, a while back someone changed the rules about popular songs having to have a melody and singers being able to actually carry a tune. I never heard about the change, it just kind of happened. So, it is feasible to assume that turn signal meanings have changed without me knowing it, too.

Back in the dark ages, when I first learned how to drive, people would use a turn signal to signal a turn (hence the catchy name). Sometimes a turn signal would indicate a desire to change lanes. But I have a hunch that today's turn signal means something quite different. If the vast majority of drivers around me are any indication, using a turn signal now must mean, "please speed up and keep me from changing lanes for as long as you can." If you doubt this, just try putting on your turn signal to change lanes and see if the car in the lane next to yours doesn't do exactly that.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that most drivers consider people who use a turn signal to indicate their intention to turn a corner, to be cheating, in much the same way that using a dictionary to spell a word correctly is cheating in Scrabble. More fun to just turn the corner and not "give away" your driving strategy to your opponents. Never let other drivers know what you intend to do -- after all, you don't want to give too much information to your opponents -- that could give them the upper hand. First one home without getting into an accident wins.

Maybe using turn signals is just too much to expect drivers to do. Look, they've got their hands full as it is -- what with talking on the phone, drinking the beverage of their choice, changing their CD, screaming at their kid, flipping the bird to other drivers, and looking at themselves in the mirror -- heck, a person can't do everything, no matter how much he or she tries.

Don't you love the idiot who jumps the light and has to be first out of the block? He tears down the street while you go at the posted speed limit and when he gets to the next red light ahead of you, you pull up right next to him. All his speed hasn't gotten him anywhere. But don't look over and laugh at him. He might shoot you.

There are certain drivers you really shouldn't start with, no matter what they do to you. For instance, don't mess with anyone who has more than eleven face-piercings. Stay away from any driver who is alone in the car, not on the phone, and has a big, wide smile on his face. Anyone driving with that handicapped sign hanging from his rear-view mirror should be given an extra wide berth. And if you can't see a head behind that steering wheel in the car in front of you, it's either a runaway car or you're in Miami.

Rude is the rule of the road. It has been for a long time. The only difference now is that the degree of rudeness has intensified. Once upon a time you might get yelled at, now you might get killed. Road rage has become so widespread that I expect it every time I get into my car. And that's just from my wife.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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