Sometimes the best path to coexistence is a quick exit

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/17/20

A popular bumper sticker implores us, with just one word and several symbols, to “coexist.”

It’s a noble and necessary aim — coexistence — but it isn’t always easy. This is true on a …

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Sometimes the best path to coexistence is a quick exit

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A popular bumper sticker implores us, with just one word and several symbols, to “coexist.”

It’s a noble and necessary aim — coexistence — but it isn’t always easy. This is true on a global scale and right here at home.

Sometimes things happen — especially on the open road where you’re apt to see such bumper sticker advice — that test our ability to just get along.

Something along those lines happened to me Saturday morning driving along the two-lane stretch of Hwy.15-501 between Pittsboro and the Lee County line.

I was driving northbound at a comfortable 60 miles per hour — enough miles per hour over the speed limit, I believed, to keep everybody else (i.e. those drivers behind me) happy and the law from growing disagreeable.

But there are times you could be driving 120 mph and it wouldn’t be quite fast enough for the bloke behind the wheel of the car behind you; and that was the case Saturday morning, as I could infer from the way the driver of the van to my rear was tailgating me — never mind that I was technically speeding.

I was also planning to make a left hand turn off the well-traveled two-lane highway, which required me to alert, using my turn signal, the driver to my rear of my intent and to slow down as my turn approached; everything — I believed — I was supposed to do to execute an ordinary driving maneuver and, in turn, coexist.

But my Spidey senses began to tingle when, just as I was slowing and about to turn off the road, I noticed in the rear view mirror the van behind me begin to veer to the left, as if they were going to pass me on this straight stretch of road.

So to avoid a collision with the man of questionable motives driving behind me, I braked even more.

That’s when he suddenly jerked the van back to the right and, I think, went off the road a bit as he readjusted, stirring up gravel.

Baffled by this odd driving style, I continued to make the planned and telegraphed turn and as I did also looked back over my right shoulder to better determine what on earth was going on with the van. I looked just in time to see the young man driving it offer me a final critique with a single raised finger.

The incident left me, in modern parlance, SMH, which I think (and hope) means “shaking my head,” for that felt my only remaining response.

There’d been no contact between car and van, no property damage, and — of most importance to coexisting — no one had been hurt.

But the perplexing incident remained with me for a bit longer as I continued on my now-westward route. Somehow, in his alternative version of the events that had just occurred, the guy driving the van, by now I assumed continuing his northbound route at a much faster pace free of my irritating interference, must have felt — strongly enough to articulate it with the rude gesture — that I had erred in my signaling and slowing.

The only other thing I could have done to mitigate conflict in that driving situation, maybe, was extend my left arm out the window and use the archaic arm and hand manual turning signal that nobody much uses anymore and even fewer people, I think, still understand.

Or, given more time and a sunroof, I might have sent up smoke signals.

As it was, I felt I’d exhausted my real-world options.

I relate the incident here not to certify my innocence of any wrongdoing in this minor driving disagreement, but to remind myself, mainly, that coexistence isn’t a carefree highway. It requires something of us.

Sometimes it demands tolerance. Sometimes patience. Sometimes empathy. Sometimes forgiving, sometimes forgetting. And sometimes, just getting out of someone else’s way.


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