I believe in using my turn signals. It is a silly thought—that turn signal use could be a profound belief—but that little blinker says a lot about an individual’s values and our cohesion as a community.
I live in a busy nation comprised of busy people who are scheduled to the point of exhaustion. We shop outside our neighborhoods and cultivate relationships with people hundreds of miles away. Indeed, many of us travel as far to work every day as our ancestors may have traveled on the biggest trip of their lives.
In my car I feel isolated in a crowd. I whiz by others without acknowledgement that we are sharing a road or a morning or a community. On the way to work, school or the store, the road has come to symbolize a barren American dream to me. It no longer represents the western pull of manifest destiny or the freedom of Kerouac’s odyssey—it is the daily commute and nothing more. It is anonymous.
I often travel on US 40, The National Road, a historic landmark that on my stretch has traded the dust and ruts of the frontier wagons for fast food restaurants and strip malls, and I feel sad and disconnected. I see the people around me—mostly lone drivers in large cars—and I wonder what their day holds and where their wheels are headed. I wonder what they ate for breakfast or if they have children they love in their lives.
In this lonely landscape, the turn signal holds vast emotional currency for me. When I signal to my fellow travelers, I am telling them that I know they are there and I acknowledge that we are sharing the journey together. It is a small act that comforts me. By a simple flick of the signal, we are confirming a social contract; we recognize and respect each other’s place on the highway. In a way, I feel more connected to drivers who signal and I feel anger toward those who don’t.
It is a ridiculous thing to feel snubbed by, but I do. I believe that our social fabric has slackened from the tight water repellant canvas of the Conestogas to a stretchy Lycra of modern informality. I’m okay with change, but I fear if it loosens any more there is a danger that we may wind up naked and alone. I believe in using my turn signals because I need connection, I need communication, and I need community; even if it is only a little yellow light traveling at 65 miles an hour. It still says- Good Morning, I know you are here and so am I.
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