The Silent Communication of Commuting: Also About the Elmo Truck


*FLASH!* "You first, mister."

*FLASH, FLASH!* "Really? You mean it? Thank you!"

It was a very civilized moment on the roads yesterday, as another driver and I sorted ourselves out in a space wide enough only for Victorian carriages or natural childbirth.

I was feeling strangely magnanimous about my fellow man at the moment-- probably had too much Diet Dr. Pepper-- and I'd yielded way in the charcoal light of the autumn evening. The driver's surprise at this courtesy was expressed in happy high beams.

Funny how these signals we've come to use on the roads can mean one thing-- and can also mean exactly the opposite.

I mean, high beaming can say, "Please, go ahead." And "thank you." So basically, you could conduct a whole scene of those two gophers on Bugs Bunny using only your high beams...

*FLASH, FLASH!* "After you."
*FLASH, FLASH!*" Oh, but no-- after you."
*FLASH, FLASH!* "Oh, but I insist!"
*FLASH, FLASH!* "Why, thank you! You are too kind."
*FLASH, FLASH!* "No, thank YOU!"

(Humvee comes by, riding up over the back of both vehicles, crushing the drivers within, killing them instantly... )

*FLASH, FLASH!* "Ha-ha."

See, that's the thing. We have those Courteous Gopher high-beams, and then we have the Driver Teetering on Sanity's Edge high beams.

The ones that say:
*FLASH, FLASH.: "MOOOVVE, curse you! I'm leaving the job I hate... with the boss I hate more... to go home to my nagging wife and screaming, ungrateful kids... and get ten blissful moments to myself before they're home to make my life a living hell... and YOU are the meatsack between me and my destination. This is the frikkin' commute, you moron-- not Driving Miss Daisy."

I've met this guy before, actually. He comes in different variations in different places, but in mine, he drives a pickup truck with a great big red Elmo doll in the front window. He's run me off the road three times already.

And let me tell you, the irony is tangible when you begin to think your last view of life on this planet will be this blazing red Elmo screaming toward your windshield at 80 miles per hour.

*FLASH, FLASH!* "Yeah, that's right-- curse YOU, Elmo Truck! Do us all a favor and register for some anger management classes, mister!
Ahem.

So there's the high beams.

But waving's another one. I mean, waving can be, "Hey, thanks for not crushing my car in this merge..."

It can mean, "Hey, there's Gladys over there, let's wave at her and not pay any attention whatsoever to where we're driving..."

And it can also mean, "You tried to crowd me out, you bugger, but I merged in anyway so ha-jolly-ha-with-knobs-on. Thanks fer nothin'!" Sorta sarcastic-like, see?

And this doesn't even include the various hand gestures available to us. I mean, there is, of course, the ever-popular one-fingered salute...

But me, now, I prefer what I think of as the Jersey Hand Wave and Rhetorical Question Combo Pack. It's sort of a flat-palmed chop to the air followed by a, "What's wrong with you? What're ya doin'?" that no one outside the car can hear, but which still somehow makes me feel a lot better.

To spice it up, the "What're ya doin'?" can be followed by the nickname of your choice. I prefer to start out with things like "Chachi", "Snookums," "Sweetie" and then, in extreme moments, I escalate it to a few more colorful selections.

I just think it's great that without much direct vocalization, we can say so much, so easily.

But hey, if you see a dude in a monstrous-big pickup with a massive stuffed Elmo in the front window, playing chicken with you?--

Just get out of his way. I mean, I like you guys, and nobody deserves Death By Muppet.

A little smart give-and-take can make a big difference in getting to Sesame Street safely.

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24 comments:

Shieldmaiden96 said...

My nemesis for years was a guy in a large SUV and a blinding white shirt and tie. He'd tailgate me through Greenville, DE, on a road that runs right into Wilmington...no real point in the tailgating since its light after light and its not like you can gain any time getting around anyone. He was always on the phone. Who wants to talk to his ass at 7:20am?? I used to will him to stop at my favorite coffee joint so I could have a word with him. Or give him mean looks.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shieldmaiden- And he sounds like one of those that you just KNOW annoys people in hundreds of little ways all day-- in and out of his car.

He's the guy who cuts in front of you in line, or talks loudly on his cell phone in public areas...

He's the one who probably irritates coworkers, or interrupts, or uses the last coffee in the pot without making more.

Maybe he'll meet up with the Elmo Truck someday. I guarantee, it won't be pretty. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to pick one? Umm...can't do. I commute about 100 miles a day (around 48 miles from work one way) and the number of idiots I deal with on those long drives every morning and evening are astronomical. In the six years I've been doing this it has been impossible to narrow my choices down to one or two problem people...
Sue

Chaotically Calm said...

LMAO...too funny. Remember that the car makes every a warrior. We morph into someone else once behind all that steal. Personally I'm more of the one finger salute while yelling thanks Sweetie right back at you jack-off.....ok maybe I too need some help.

Keep the funny coming, I love it!

Jenn Thorson said...

Sue- Oh, gosh, yes, I don't even know how you manage with that ginormous commute and still keep your sanity. That's a long time and a LOT of mileage.

Chaotically Calm- See, you've just proven the "Thanks, Sweetie" is a strangely effective stress reliever. :) I'm pretty low-key most times I'm driving, though I have been known to stay stuff that would make a longshoreman blush. :)

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

Ahem. I might actually be one of those idiots. I swear I'm going to make me some 10X11 signs to hold up after I...ah...cut someone off or something:

Sorry, kids are distracting me.

Sorry, I'm new here.

Sorry, thinking about my dysfunctional marriage.

Sorry, listening to Wilco.

Sorry, planning my next blog post.

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- I can deal with you being a driver I might have to give the Jersey Hand Wave and Rhetorical Question to...

As long as you're not driving the Elmo Truck, we're cool. :)

ReformingGeek said...

Great post. I'm feeling your pain down here in Texas with all the trucks and LOLs (Little Old Ladies). And what's with folks driving 30 miles below the speed limit? Saving gas? Ha! They are usually on the DAMN phone. I don't understand why it can't wait.

Anna Lefler said...

Chachi! Ha - I love that one. I notice that people are much more polite on the road when they notice the gun rack in my back window.

Coincidence? I think not?

:^) Anna

Jenn Thorson said...

Reforming Geek- Ah, yes, the Little Old Lady demographic has been known to snarl our traffic fairly well, too-- especially if there's the faintest dusting of snow. And you're right about the phone-- ever notice almost anyone who speeds up and slows down for seemingly no reason is on the phone? :)

Anna- I think you may have something there with your gunrack theory. :) "Note to self- at a four way stop, let Anna go first." :)

Jaffer said...

Well, I don't drive and I take the bus to work - which I believe is much bigger than the Elmo Truck.
I guess it is also the only vehicle on the road (besides the emergency ones) whom you must yield to and that can also get away running through red-lights.

So for the most part I won't have to worry about being thrown off the road by another vehicle.

But I have been in a bus that was hit by another bus. And I also was in a streetcar that hit a Civic.
And another time I was almost hit by a bus ! Whew !

Jenn Thorson said...

Crikey, Jaffer-- it sounds like we're extremely lucky you're still alive and all in one piece. Stop playing your own personal brand of Frogger out there, will ya? :) It's dangerous!

confused said...

after 3 million miles long hauling in a truck I can't say I miss all that stuff..really I don't..honest.. excpet maybe that young lady in Chicago that flashed me on I 94..that I miss..:)

chyna said...

My nemesis was a black Chevy truck with a personalize plate reading Beowulf. You'd think how literate and polite this person must be. HA!!! She was the worst driver on this green earth. One day I had the unfortunate luck of being behind her when she started drifting towards the edge of a railroad overpass with some huge power poles. I couldn't decide if I should let her or honk my horn and cause her to over-correct. Yep she is one of those cellphone connected to ear people. Actually met her since she worked with my dh. So wanted to tell her off but it was a company function. ;< I did find out that she has went off the road numerous times and got numerous tickets because on top of the weaving she speeds. Can't tell you how happy I was when she quit and got a job in another direction.

Jaffer said...

OMG Jenn, it was just like frogger. Refer to this illustration - http://is.gd/4ddz

I'd just got off the bus and wanted to cross the street. But as soon as I stepped on the road, the lights turn green !
I phased out and just stood there while the driver was ready to move the bus.
He didn't notice me as he was paying attention to passing traffic.

A woman who'd got off with me screamed "NOOOO..." and that when I came to my senses, and stepped back up onto the sidewalk - with just a second to spare !

Melanie said...

Humvee comes by, riding up over the back of both vehicles, crushing the drivers within, killing them instantly....

Ok, you had me laughing like crazy there!

I don't have to deal with a lot of traffic on my 3 block drive to work, but there is my 80 yr old neighbor lady who does not look right nor left when she backs out of her driveway or at intersections. She figures if she's behind the wheel she's got the right of way. Can't tell you how often she's nearly plowed into me.

Jenn Thorson said...

Confused- Well, you might still be able to get that if you hang out after a big sports game, or, say, go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. No need to drive 900 miles 'til the day is done. :)

Chyna- How strange for you to have met Beowulf in person... I don't know what I'd do if I met the Elmo Truck Man face-to-face. Sounds like Beowulf is a ticking timebomb.

Jaffer- Was the "Noooo!" all in slow-mo like in the movies? Because, well, it was just now in my head. :)

Melanie- Oh boy, and when you've got a neighbor like that, you have to wonder at how lucky they've been all this time? I know my grandpa took us on some wild rides, too, before we made him give up his license!

Jaffer said...

LOL ! It was more like a very loud NO !

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- Aw, I had this really dramatic vision of it in my head-- rats. :)

Babs (Beetle) said...

I don't drive but I've seen it all as a passenger. Mo usually waves, smiles sweetly and calls out "Bless you!" That really gets 'em angry!

Jenn Thorson said...

Babs- Heh, yes, it's amusing how extra-politeness can get the goat of rude drivers.

Greg said...

OMG, the "the Jersey Hand Wave and Rhetorical Question Combo Pack" must be genetic. I was not of driving age while I lived in NJ, and learned on the mellow byways of the rural Adirondacks...

...but since moving to the Cape and dealing with all the Mass-holes, not to mention the gang from Connecticut who believe fervantly that no road rules apply to them, the Hand wave and rhet questions things has risen to the top.

chyna said...

Yep good ol' Beowulf. Not even sure she had an idea who that is or maybe she stole the plates off of someone else. What really scares me now is that she got a new vehicle and different plates. Now she's a wulf in sheep's clothing. ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- HA!-- I feel so set-up for that one. :) I really should have seen that coming.