Our son turns sixteen this summer, and I’ll be sliding over to the passenger’s seat as he begins the lifelong process of learning how to drive. Over the past few months, he’s been asking a lot of questions whenever we get into the car, so I’ve been taking note of the amusing habits of other drivers even more than usual. I want to be able to explain the different situations and personalities he’s likely to encounter out there, and to help him make sense of it all. I’m not optimistic.
One example involves two cars that cross paths as they both try to make left turns. Now things may have changed since I first learned to drive with my father. Or maybe he was more considerate than most, and my expectations are too high. But I was taught that if I’m making a left turn and you’re also making a left turn out of the road I’m headed into, I should let you go first, if possible. The reason is simple: I’m holding up the traffic behind me, allowing you to make your turn. It’s going to take you just a couple of seconds to pull out, so nobody is inconvenienced. But if I go ahead with my turn, there may be a line of thirty cars behind me, and you’re stuck sitting there, waiting and waiting. All in all, the first option seems preferable. You’re happy and there’s one fewer frustrated driver on the road.
But I seem to be the only person who thinks this way, at least where I live. I’m always left sitting, and waiting. Worse, when I’m the one with the right of way and I try to let the other car make his turn, the driver goes into some kind of catatonic state. He can’t believe what’s happening and sometimes the shock is just too much for him. After a few seconds, he regains consciousness and the control of his extremities, and he begins to pull out. But by then, I’ve grown impatient and I start to make my turn. Then we both stop. Then we both go a little. The guy behind me is honking his brains out, and now there are at least three more frustrated drivers on the road.
I once believed I could change this situation around, just by winning over one driver at a time with the courtesy my father instilled in me. Surely they’d all come to see that my way was better.
Maybe my son will have more luck.
Here’s a series of diagrams to show you what I’m talking about.