Turn, Turn, Turn


In the wake of my recent posting of handy tips for pedestrians so that they may enjoy a long and industrious life, I’d like to now present a public service announcement for all drivers who may not be aware of the following: Your turn signal is not the thing that makes the car turn. What makes the car turn is your arms and the steering wheel.

What your turn signal is for is to let me know that you intend to turn. The idea here is that you let me know this well in advance of your actually doing it, preferably before I leave the house. If you engage your turn signal at the very moment you need to turn, it’s kind of an exercise in pointlessness since I can already see you’re turning. For example, let’s say we’re in a four-lane road and there’s a red light. Letting me know in advance that you intend to turn will alert me to the need to get in the right lane alongside you so that I may continue going straight when the light turns green, and thus avoid having to sit behind you while a funeral procession for a greatly beloved and very Catholic Sicilian person coming from the other side files by on our immediate left at a speed considered reasonable only by sloths.

I understand there are times when you may have forgotten to turn your signal on in advance. We’re all human. But should that be the case you are obligated–according to “The Rules of the Road”–to continue in a forward direction across the intersection even if all you wanted to do was go to the Walgreens across the street and this new forward route will take you onto the I-29 on ramp where you will not be able to turn around until you get to Canada.

Proper procedure dictates you engage your turn signal a half block before you actually turn. This is taught in high school Drivers’ Education. But apparently that’s not a thing anymore. Or if it is a thing it’s taught by the same people that teach English grammar. I took Drivers’ Ed in high school. My driving instructor was Mr. Novak. That wasn’t his real job. His real job was teaching World History and Narcolepsy. If there was a prize for the most sedate individual in the world Mr. Novak would finish second only to Vladimir Lenin. But at $100 a month the driving instructor job must have been pretty attractive to Mr. Novak as it allowed him to supplement his income with cash money, which was quite significant back then as until 1978 teachers were paid in flour.

Staying alert in Mr. Novak’s class was an extraordinary challenge, so much so that the Mercury astronauts were sent there in the early 60’s to test their ability at staying awake without amphetamines. When I found out he would be teaching me Drivers’ Ed I calculated the amount of money cab fare would cost me for my entire life ($873,600 assuming I didn’t visit anybody out of town). This seemed prohibitive and so I bought a box of No-Doz and geared up.

What I hadn’t realized at the time but would shortly was that Mr. Novak was the greatest driving instructor of all time. You could plow through the chain-link fence of an oil refinery–having overreacted to the sudden and alarming appearance of a discarded White Castle hamburger bag in the middle of the road–ram the front end of the car into the support leg of a two million liter storage tank, and Mr. Novak–keenly aware of James Cagney standing on top of the dome firing a revolver and yelling, “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” as well as sensing the imminent KABOOM which would be shortly forthcoming, would slowly and supportively instruct, “Now, put the car in reverse. Mm hm. Signal. And you want to merge back into traffic at a moderate speed.”

I guess we all have our special gifts.

Another issue concerning signaling and making turns is TRUST. If you’re turning left and you’ve got your signal on, and the person across the intersection is turning to their left and has their signal on, YOU BOTH NEED TO GO! You can’t wait to make sure they’re really turning while they wait to make sure you’re really turning. This is not productive. For the benefit of all of humanity that is behind you, presume the other person is not trying to lure you into a trap.

And on that theme I would like to address one particular type of driver that is familiar to all of us other drivers and absolutely drives us all berserk. This is the Narcissistic Jackass, or Narjac for short. This is the person who needs to turn left but DOES NOT HAVE THEIR TURN SIGNAL ON, faced with someone across from them who needs to turn left also and does have their turn signal on because they’re a civilized human being but is waiting for the Narjac to keep coming forward because that’s obviously what the Narjac intends to do since their turn signal is NOT ON and they have the right of way but are not moving forward because–it’s assumed–they’re having a stroke in the middle of the intersection, but in reality are just making sure the civilized person is really going to turn left because they, the Narjac, being the Grand Poobah of Self-absorption (GPS) is the same person who leaves one ice cube in the tray so he doesn’t have to fill it up again.

So, try to use your turn signal way in advance so people know what you’re doing. Trust that people across from you are really turning when they indicate that’s their intent. And for all you people who drive Hummers, if you’re ever behind a Narjac, you have our permission to keep traffic flowing in whatever manner you feel is best.

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