Sunday, August 11, 2013

Turn Signals

Turn your signal on. Please, for the love of god, turn your signal on. It’s probably the easiest thing you’ll do all day and an effortless way to give back. I am baffled to the point of irrational frustration at those who cannot seem to muster the momentary selflessness it takes to signal before making a turn. Seriously, how bad have things become, how deep into our own bubbles must we be, that this simplest of gestures is routinely ignored because, hey, we just can’t be bothered? The effort is too great, or simply beneath us. Others should know we intend to change directions without notice. Or, if they cannot intuit our every whim, they should simply suck it up and thank us for reminding them that the world truly does revolve around our individual needs.

Okay, sure, I’m overreacting, but am I? This one thing that people cannot do with any regularity is significant. It does show an inherent consumption with our own selves that bleeds into other parts of our lives. If we can’t be bothered to signal, a gesture who’s pure intent is to alert others to our intentions so they can properly adapt and maintain a sense of equilibrium in the universe, then we are truly on a path to chaos and isolation.

Cars used to be so simple; a convenient way to get from one place to another. And you really had to want to get there because you had to crank it up to get it started. Now, all you have to do is push a button. Cool, yes, but really, was turning a key so difficult? And yet, a car's main purpose remains the same. It is not, in fact, intended to be a movie theater on wheels, or a remote wifi hotspot, or a hovercraft.

I’m not gonna lie, borrowing my mother-in-law’s van with the DVD player made many long car trips bearable when the kids were little, who am I kidding, it can make a trip to the grocery store easier. But should it. Why shouldn’t our kids have to suffer through the boredom of hours on Route I-80? Builds character and stamina and leads to the invention of great car games like the Alphabet game, License plate Lottery and the epic Braveheart-esque battles of “He’s on my Side.” Those car rides build valuable life skills like creativity, patience, and upper body strength.

Sure modern invention creates convenience, and convenience is nice (really nice) but it is not a cure-all for responsibility. Despite the James Bondish ingenuity a car’s main purpose remains the same: it is meant to help people get places faster than on foot or by horse or bicycle. Yet the responsibility involved in operating that machinery is awesome and as age and indifference clicks on auto-pilot, we take that grave power cavalierly, and cannot fulfill the most basic duty of moving a lever up or down with the effort of a single finger, because we are too busy talking on the phone, finding the perfect song, or lost in our own terribly important agenda.

I’m not saying we need to go back to the Stone Age. I like my IPhone. I like not hearing my kids killing each other in the back seat. But I call on us all to resist the urge to let these conveniences dupe us into assuming an entitlement that does not exist. We are still social creatures beholden to one another to evolve in a humane way. We rely on each other in so many conscious and unconscious actions over the course of a day, a year, a lifetime. Opening a door, saying please and thank you, compromising on health care, and signaling before you turn so the other ripples in the lake can adjust. This is what makes the world a better place, a simple effort to look beyond our own seductive need for personal convenience. And it’s such an easy place to start. Just signal when you turn and realize that driving is not your divine right, but a privilege you must earn every time you get behind the wheel.

Can you tell Teenager #1 is about to turn 16?

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