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By March 3, 2020Culture, Random/Rants

“Never use your blinker, that just tips them off.”

This cynical, decades-old mantra says plenty about the challenges we face on our daily commute, and maybe even more about a shift in our collective ethos.

The inattentiveness, impatience and other antisocial behavior of drivers seems to be worsening — disproportionate to increasing traffic and congestion.

One subtle but dangerous way in which the downshift manifests itself is drivers’ increasing disregard for the turn indicator function, colloquially known as the “blinker.” Habitually bad blinkers — at intersections, while changing lanes, etc. — may not be the worst people on the road, but they metaphorically reflect both the practical and psychological concerns.

Practically, mobile phones have turned us into a distracted society — unsatisfied with living in the moment, in neither time nor place. As we try to squeeze more miles out of every minute, mobile phones distance our thinking from our immediate surroundings. The result is our minds and vehicles drift, literally.

Psychologically, the hyper-partisan times we’re currently experiencing have created unprecedented levels of social discord and intolerance. The fallout is impacting us at home and work … and on the road, where incivility too often escalates from impatience and inconsideration to more aggressive behavior. One driver cutting off another, for example, starts with honking and hollering, which leads to flipping off, then to outright raging, and so on.


It’s debatable when and how we got lost, but to get back on course is fairly straightforward as well as virtuous: Just follow The Golden Rule to the place where we do onto others as we would have them do onto us.

For example, whenever you change lanes, use your blinker to let others know your intentions. Merge safely and respectfully to keep traffic moving more steadily. And stop where you’re supposed to stop; don’t consider traffic signs and signals as merely suggestions.

Common sense and common decency, right? Right. Perhaps your streetwise actions will inspire a chain reaction of public civility that helps us navigate this polarizing election year.


Before this rant could even be published, another example of civil disorder is taking off. What was simply one of many annoyances about flying is turning into a full-on controversy: whether to recline or decline. Viral videos show passengers pushing back on seats encroaching on their space; and claims of assault are coming from the rightful recliners.

“Airplane etiquette,” let alone common decency, suggests simply alerting the person behind you before reclining and then leaning back only enough as necessary. But no. This has become one more thing to dispute!?

Illustration by Anne Bentley from the Bethesda Magazine article “Rule of the Road” by April Witt (6-11-18)


  • I say recline. The chairs are made for it, so it must be okay.

  • Lesley K says:

    Stuart, you have articulated perfectly what I have observed as well. Just this morning, I was merging onto a highway from the left, the car in front of me needed to move over rather quickly to make the exit coming up, and the driver next to me, to my right, who could’ve slowed down a little to let the guy in sped up instead. Since he and I were neck and neck I looked over and shook my head and he backed off and let the poor guy in. I don’t know why people do that? I think people have forgotten that we’re all in this together. And as you stated, the golden rule seems to be vanishing from our collective psyche. There’s a few of us remnants left thankfully that still use their blinker although I am very unhappy to report that my husband is not one of them. He has the cynical attitude; don’t tip them off. I hate that! It just feeds that mentality imho. Thankfully my daughter uses her blinker. We cannot let cynicism rule.

  • Jane says:

    A return to even a modicum of kindness, would help!

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