I was driving the other day, presumably not as fast as I should have been in the left lane on a major highway, when Charlie and Bernadette in a mid 90s Toyota Tercel decided to David Blaine me, and all of a sudden they were directly behind me. As you know, often when this happens, there is no easy immediate remediation. This was true in my case. With no way to move over one lane to the right and let them pass, not willing at that time to crash into the concrete barrier to the left, or speed up to get over seemed inefficient in my truck who happens to also be dinosaur juice thirsty, I decided to continue my course, and slowly advance past the vehicle on my right to move over and let Charlie and his female companion pass. Charlie must have needed McD’s french fries from the next state over, and could not wait, and decided to ease off the pedal, in order to speed past myself and two cars to my right, each in their own respective lanes, and then cross all the way back to the left lane, as quick as you can spell Jiminy Cricket without a smart phone or Wikipedia. This is where he brought out the real David Copperfield magic. While quickly moving back left across the lanes in front of the other vehicles, he decided to initiate a direct line of communication with me and gave the middle talon of his tercel (- a variant spelling of tiercel, a male bird hawk – honestly had to look up what a tercel was, but I thought it was an appropriate commonality given what I am about to discuss), in effect giving me the bird. We have all seen an angry driver at least once, but Charlie wanted to distinguish himself from those other angry drivers, and to do so, as he passed the far right car, he maintained that middle finger all the way until he was in front of me by adjusting the orientation of his wrist to direct it at me, and then continued as he extended his lead for the next half mile or so. I wanted to acknowledge Charlie that I had received his message from the beginning, but how? He’s already driving in front of me, and isn’t going to slow down, so the gears in my head changed from whatever thoughts they were on, to my new problem: communicate back to Charlie (and possibly Bernadette) that the message was received, and reply with an appropriate response. Here are some of my thoughts :
– I could reply with the very common “honk” either short or long, however there are many problems with this particular recourse. While Charlie and Bernadette would likely acknowledge that I am communicating with them, what about the other drivers on the highway, as they would be alerted, and to what? (BTW, I would love to draft legislature to eliminate any radio from playing any semblance of a siren in any song or commercial, as I am often falsely caught off guard and react for no reason, occasionally dangerously with no consensus from other drivers in the vicinity , regardless of the volume of the radio.) Assuming that Charlie and Bernadette do hear my horn, what is it that they perceive my message to be, as most people do not know Morse code (excluding the common SOS · · · — — — · · ·). Would they think I am trying to say something vulgar, happy, or tell them one of my favorite jokes. Let’s also look at honking in other situations, the common “HEY, I’m at your house, come outside, we are ready to go!” or “Look up, the light is green!” or one of the many other quick responses that are generally accepted and understood within those specific situations. However, the icing on the cake with replying with a honk or series of honks would be that this form of communication is not even limited between humans. Be reminded that we often use this sporadic tone to inform animals in streets to get out of the way, namely dogs (presumably the unintelligent ones) and ducks/geese/other winged Aves (I would argue actually smart, just unimpressed by our limited individual transportation capabilities). So given the honk, I could not communicate anything effectively or specifically to Charlie.
– So I also thought that I could race up behind or beside CaB and begin a conversation, or reply with an angered yell, however, my time is precious, and ultimately my exit was in about two miles, leaving little possibility for this to occur, let alone performing this safely. I also would admit that sometimes my brain gets jumbled when I get flustered, so concentrating on what to say exactly or be prepared for potential replies, it seemed unlikely given the time constraint. So any form of immediate vocal followup seemed unlikely.
– An eye for an eye, ah Ha! I had it, I could show him my own bird! But what would this accomplish? He may not even see it, being in the rear view mirror and everything, and I doubt he would have wanted to look in his right side mirror, as it would have been closer than appeared. Don’t forget he is speeding past me, so it is unlikely he is concentrating with much effort on the things behind him, other than to orient his hand in my direction. What about another hand gesture(s). Two handed manipulations are out, as I only save those for when I need to drink a soda, talk on the phone, shift gears, and control my speed, and I don’t have any another limbs to spare. So limited to one hand, and since I only know a bit of ASL, and no other dialect of sign language (yes there is French [similar], British [different] and many others) , I began to think……
Remember I am trying to achieve true communication: willfully acknowledge Charlie’s gesture and it’s generally accepted implicit meaning, include my own relevant comment, and have it understood by Charlie. Alas, I have traveled about a mile and can see the exit that I need to take (“take,” because “get on” or “get off” seem to both work, but are inherently opposite.). Presto, I came up with a sign that is appropriate, but wasn’t sure if it was perfect, and I had to start moving to the right. Yes, within the last mile or less I started exiting from the left lane, sue me, I was thinking this awesome reply up. So here it is, and I call it Acceptance, named for many reasons, but especially from a class I took where for a semester I studied the differences of Tolerance and Acceptance.
Once I had it imagined, in my head, I wasn’t sure it was valid or unique, so I started thinking of other common hand gestures and imagined these:
|Bull Horns||International Peace||I Love You|
|Spock||Shaka – Hang loose||Weird people who count to 3|
However, after making sure not to replicate some other common signed gesture, I was now at the exit and had to begin to turn off. I failed at replying to Charlie, but I continued developing a response, as I could easily perceive this being relavant later in my life. However, now I realized that I had not remembered, despite being in my view for almost a mile, whether or not Charlie had decided to include his thumb with his gesture, and that meant I had to accompany either/all gestures for future situations, so I decided to expand my new found love:
Be careful to notice that I have inverted the Acceptance hand to accomodate and “accept” the bird, giving it a nest or roof or whatever, and also the inclusion or omittance of the thumb, to complement the absence or presence (respectively) of the bird’s talon. I think it is a relavant reply that both acknowledges the gesture and replies in a non violent way that the gesture is not as offensive as the giver had intended it to be. While the message may not be received as such, it is an attempt to accept others, in their actions and of their selves. So next time you are slightly offended that someone is trying to incite a brash response from you, try Acceptance, and see what it will get you, hopefully a smile 🙂
“Put up your peace sign, put your index down” – Busta Rhymes from Peace Sign/Index Down with Gym Class Heroes Album : The Quilt Track : 2