Missed manners

It’s hot. At our almost-weekly, informal editorial board meeting, loosely titled, “Anyone got any ideas about what we should editorialize about?” the staff focused on the temperature and how it affects the temper of drivers, the watering of yards, the construction of roads, and the condition of air conditioning. Throw in the fact that many people are leaving town on the annual migration called “the summer vacation,” and it seems we have the almost annual “Think and breathe” editorial.

The idea is yes, high temperatures make for short tempers. People get irritated at things they’d just brush off in the temperate days of spring. What’s worse is, once irritated, people can derive a little satisfaction from others’ irritation. It’s a vicious cycle that usually breaks about the end of August (long after the gridlock of Hot August Nights). But wouldn’t it be much easier on the blood pressure if you’d take yourself out of the equation, and instead of opening your mouth with an angry curse, spread your lips in a friendly smile? Inwardly, it’s great (and very satisfactory) to question a moron’s ancestry, but just this once, you can turn to your passenger and say, “I hope you noticed how I didn’t give that buttmunch the finger.”

OK, first, it’s against the law to water between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. And what’s more, it’s a waste of the resource and your money because the water evaporates before it actually nourishes your lawns or plants. Simple as this, it pisses people off unnecessarily, and by being concerned about others’ feelings—forget legality for the moment—you can make a kinder world.

More people get angry at the lack of manners on the road than just about anywhere else. After all, have you ever heard of restaurant rage or mall rage (except during the holiest of shopping seasons)? A lot of this highway hilarity focuses on the turn signal. It’s like this: If you are changing lanes on the freeway, lift or lower the “turn-signal switch” in the direction you hope to move. This will help people give you room to move and help them help you not cut them off in traffic. It’s so easy. Now, and here’s the kicker, when you see someone slightly ahead of you turn on the blinker to indicate they’d like to move into your lane, don’t speed up to impede their progress. You could even drop back a few feet to facilitate their movement. If you see a turn signal begin to blink, and you move up specifically to impede their ability to change lanes—mainly because it gives you a good feeling to know you’ve messed with their day—you’re an asshole. The problem is you know this, and once you’re past the momentary pleasure, you’re going to spend the rest of the day wondering why you’re such an asshole. And this irritation will likely cause you to take out your self-loathing on other innocent people.

Finally, those construction people who hold the orange or red signs that prevent you from turning onto your street, even though the turn is only 40 feet away, are not the enemy. The anger that will increase your blood pressure, exacerbate headaches and cause other behavioral issues—like increased smoking and drinking—is your adversary. Just be nice to them, and they’ll be nicer to the person behind you. And pretty soon, if everyone takes a second to be nice or at least not mean to strangers, the July heat will fade into September’s comforting arms, and nobody will have to blow an aneurism.