When I moved to the South from Connecticut more than nine years ago, there were a number of things that I needed to get used to. I grew up on sweet tea (because that’s just what my mom used to make), so that was no big deal. Okra was not even on my radar screen before I ventured below the Mason-Dixon Line, so I had to figure out this new, green, and slimy vegetable. Everything was fried, even Oreos, and they even have chicken fried steak and chicken fried chicken. I had to learn not be so suspicious about people at the grocery store or WalMart who would greet me with a smile and a hearty “Hello,” after all, I was used to people not even feigning politeness as they asked, “What do you want?”
But all of these things paled in comparison to the shock that would overcome me when I ventured out onto the highways and byways of the South. As I drove to work or the grocery store or my house, I discovered that there was a fatal flaw in some of the motor vehicles that people were driving. Believe it or not, some of the cars didn’t have turns signals. Sure, there were some equipped with this new invention, but I began to realize that it must have been an option that needed to be added at the time of purchase. I’ve never had the privilege of buying a brand new car, so I never had the opportunity to choose or decline this wonderful feature.
The turn signal is a little lever on the side of the steering wheel of a motor vehicle that allows the operator of said vehicle to signal in advance when making a turn or changing lanes. This feature gives those other motor vehicle operators on the road the fair warning that you will be slowing down to turn or change lanes. It indicates in advance any premeditated movements so as not to startle those other motor vehicle operators who may be lingering a little too close to your bumper. As per the Virginia Driver’s Manual, “When you plan to turn, signal three or four seconds, 100 feet, ahead of your turn.” There was nothing in there about what happens when you don’t purchase the turn signal option, but at least they give proper instruction when the feature has been installed on a motor vehicle.
Unfortunately, while there may or may not have been an option for these people to purchase a turn signal with their new vehicle, I must have missed the memo that gave me the option to include mind-reading as a feature of my brain. Slowing down with no turn signal cannot always be interpreted as intent to turn, nor can veering to the right or to the left. In fact, there are some who not only have not exercised the turn signal option on their cars, but they also have found that it works best for them if they veer right in order to turn left or veer left in order to turn right. That paired with a lack of a turn signal has a way of injecting some real excitement into driving.
Yes, the South has a lot of things that I love: Magnolia trees, sweet tea, Richmond, Atlanta, Disney World, Cheerwine, nice people, and so much more, I guess I’ll have to let all of those good things outweigh the fact that their cars were mysteriously purchased without turn signals.