Sunday, July 28, 2013

Who's on First, What's on Second, and Lindsay is Angry at the Four-Way Stop

I got in a fight with an elderly man yesterday.

I’m not proud of it. But it happened.

To give the man credit, this fight had been brewing inside of me for a while.  An angry bear waiting to be poked. He just happened to be the one who poked the bear. “He” meaning the elderly man in the dark blue mini van at the four way stop on a Saturday afternoon.

I repeat: I’m not proud of it. But it happened.

It all started with a morning radio show. I was on my way to work and turned the radio on as I do, waiting to hear the weather and news amongst the too-many car dealership ads and catchy jingles (I do enjoy that Menards jingle, though. “Save big money at MENARRRRRRDS!”).

“You know what really gets under my skin?” the DJ said as I turned the radio volume up, settling in for the drive. “I get SO IRRITATED when people do that wave thing at four-way stops.”

“Wave thing?” his female co-host said, laughing.

“You know,” the DJ said, his voice booming. “The WAVE THING. The whole ‘You go first’ gesture. People always do that to me when I get stop after them, and it’s so annoying. It makes me mad.”

“Why would that make you mad?” the co-host asked. I swear she takes the other perspective just to keep the show going.  I guess that’s how radio shows must work.

“Because it messes up the whole system!” he shouted. “Don’t get to the stop sign after me, then just wave me along. There’s a law for a reason!”

That’s true, I thought, turning at a stoplight.

“Oh, come on,” the female DJ said. “They are being nice. I wave people along.”

“I get you are trying to be nice,” he continued, “but if you wave me ahead when you got there first, then how does ole Sally Stationwagon behind me know when SHE should go? It is a domino affect of confusion, not to mention you are increasing the chances of an accident.”

That is so true, I thought.

After the radio DJ’s rants, I began to notice the four-way stop wave happened to me, like, all the time. I would clearly get to a stop sign after a person, but yet they’d wave me ahead. I didn’t get it. Sometimes, I would do the wave back. But my wave was never insistent, more a half-hearted polite wave, a “No, it’s okay,” wave. So the driver would wave again, ignoring my gesture. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, “They’re just trying to be nice and let me go first.” But as I drove on, I’d mutter, “I did not arrive there first.” The radio DJs comments had been burned into my brain.

And so, a new pet peeve was born.

This past week was the week of the wave ahead’s. Every time I approached a four-way stop, I was told to “go on,” either by nonverbal gesture or mouthed at me. One time as I was waved ahead, I was on the phone with my boyfriend. “I don’t get it,” I said, driving forward per the direction of a driver in a black Ford F-150. “Does my car look like it should just go first? Am I not assertive?”

My boyfriend laughed in response. “I know it. People do that to me all the time, too.”

The next time I am waved ahead when I shouldn’t be, I thought, I am going to wave back. I am going to be insistent. Yes. I will INSIST they go ahead.

 And that’s how I squared off with an elderly man in a blue van.

I was following a white truck on a back road. As he slowed to a stop, I followed suit behind him. Across from us, a man at the wheel of a blue van stopped shortly after the white truck in front me. He waved the white truck ahead.

Okay, I thought. Now he goes, then I go.

As the truck turned, I crawled towards the stop sign. The man sat idle, his glasses perched on his nose, his hand shaped like a claw as he waved for me to go on.

It’s time, I thought. Time to fight for my rights to go my rightful turn at the four-way stops within this state of Michigan. Fight for the DJs rants and my latest pet peeve and I WILL NO LONGER BE A NOT VERY ASSERTIVE DRIVER! So I stayed put.

He continued to wave. I felt awkward, like I was disobeying my grandfather. As his waves became more urgent, I thought, “No. He was here even a second before the GUY BEFORE ME.” I waved my hand slightly. The man shook his head no.

Insistent, Lindsay, I remembered. You must wave insistently. I sped up my wave, ignoring his own. I felt like freaking Clint Eastwood: “Draw!”  “No, you draw first!” and all that. White car vs. blue van.
Then I looked at my hand, moving rapidly as I continued to ignore this man. “What am I doing?” I realized how crazy this man and I must have looked, both waving each other ahead, neither of us moving forward.

“Oh, forget it,” I muttered. This is probably some giant life metaphor-lesson I can’t comprehend right now.

I reluctantly turned my car right, the blue van following behind me. As I drove, I thought to myself, “I just got in a fight with an elderly man about who’s turn it was to drive.” I shook my head. There are much bigger battles in this world to fight. I can stand on my Four-Way Stop Pedestal of Who Goes First, but fighting with an elderly man over it? That’s just a whole new low. Come ON.

I mean, I’m still down with the law and how to approach four-way stops. Then again, I get the kindness of a wave-ahead, too. I guess it isn’t black and white. But the next time I decide to stand my ground on something, I think it needs to be a bit more hardcore.

Plus that blue van man would never have backed down anyway.

Pick your battles, friends. Pick. Your. Battles. 


  1. I have the same pet peeve! The good news is now you'll be in the car with me whenever it happens. ;-)