BY DAVID MARTIN, Eastern Shore Post
Where civility is practiced, people tend to get along and conflict is kept at a minimum. Lose that civility, that common courtesy, and the breakdowns begin in small ways but grow until society begins to sour.
The use of the car horn is one civility sign. In the city, blasts of car horns are commonplace. In addition to legitimate horn uses, city drivers blow their horns because they’re blowing their stacks. The horn is often used as a supplement to a rude finger gesture.
Moving from the city to a rural area, you seldom hear that angry, sustained blaring of car horns.
Instead, you hear quick beeps as people use their horn to say hello to friends they recognize walking down the street.
Small-town people will also use two quick beeps as a way of signing off when they’re leaving a house where they’ve been visiting. Service people will also use the two-beep signal to say good-bye, we’re done for the day.
But is the Shore losing its horn civility? Recently, a man from Onancock was sentenced to 30 days in jail for a road rage incident near Tasley that began with one driver blaring his horn at another and ended with shots being fired.
Across the U.S., road rage incidents are responsible for hundreds of lives being lost and tens of thousands of injuries.
Incivility and rage are not confined to roadways. People become rude and then violent in stores, sport venues, and fast-food restaurants.
To avoid the negative outcomes of a lack of civility, consider what you could and should do in these situations:
n Someone ahead of you in a busy grocery line decides to pay by check but then can’t find his checkbook, or a pen, or his identification.
You could roll your eyes, harrumph loudly enough for the person to hear, and glare if the person looks at you.
You should remain patient and, if the bumbling person writing the check looks at you, you should smile and indicate no problem.
n Someone is driving slowly on a 55 mph two-lane road and you’re unable to pass.
You could drive right up to them and stay on their bumper to ensure they know you’re in a hurry.
You should drop back once you realize you can’t pass.
n You’re about to pull into a parking space when someone slips in front of you and takes the spot.
You could blare your horn and give a finger signal.
You should accept that some people are jerks and then take a deep breath and get on with life.
n As you’re about to open a door to a crowded store, someone bumps into you and grabs for the handle.
You could bump the person back and refuse to relinquish the handle.
You should say, “Excuse me,” and then open the door for the person and tell him, “After you.”
Being courteous comes with at least three benefits.
One, acts of civility usually lower tension and help avoid escalation into violence. Two, being courteous often leads the other person to respond with courtesy. Three, being civil makes you a better person.
The writer is a copy editor for the Eastern Shore Post. He is the author of 12 novels, including “The Crying Heart Tattoo,” which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in Accomack County.