The year was 1987 and Lincoln, Nebraska was still fresh off its Oscar-winning buzz for “Terms of Endearment” in 1984. The new high was a 14.5 hour, seven-nights-in-a-row, mega-miniseries called “Amerika” to be shot on location around the outskirts of Lincoln and aired on the ABC Television network.
I don’t know who it was that told me about the unwritten and unspoken rule of the road — if you saw a police officer sitting and waiting to catch people going quickly in the opposite direction, and you saw people coming in that direction that you were encouraged, if not obligated, to warn the drivers headed toward the speed trap by flashing your headlights a couple of times.
Taking turns is one of the most important — yet underused and underappreciated — totems of social living. I’m not talking about, “It’s My Turn!” as in the clarion call of a self-centered existence when it comes to job promotion or marriage tying; I’m talking about public moments in society when we are confronted against each other and there’s a moment of wondering if I should go or if you should go — and it seems we have an ever-deepening problem with being strong enough, and confident enough, to let the other person go first and subsume our own personal entitlements for the goodness of making things actually work between people with warring wants.
In movies and television shows depicting the future, there are flying cars and cars that drive themselves — and sometimes a combination of the two. In the movie Total Recall, for example, there are taxi services that are entirely driven by robots. The promise of the future is that people will no longer have to drive if they don’t wish to do so, and that driving can be a more passive activity to be watched as though it were a form of entertainment of its own.
When I was growing up in New Jersey, I would dream of one day driving a car and being able to go wherever I wanted. I knew that it would be years before I would actually be able to steer and control an actual car but there was a way in which I could exert some kind of power over not just one car but many cars at once — the crosswalk button at most intersections.
Pressing that button gave me a dramatic injection of power and, as I have now learned, a dose of unwitting, medicinal, gullibility.
When I had a car that I drove regularly in New Jersey, I used to buy bumper stickers with the intention of putting them on. I never put them on, partially because of something my brother said about having your car stick out. What makes it all the more interesting is that I was ultimately glad that I did not put a sticker on the car because of an observation that I made while attending Phish shows from 1995-2000.
We now have scientific evidence that talking on the phone while driving is more dangerous than chatting with the person in the car with you: