I have a memory of pulling up to the stoplight at the intersection of Berkeley Street and Morgantown Street back home where I grew up. Inside our ’91 Park Avenue sat my Mom in the driver seat, me in the front passenger seat (probably complaining that the leather seats stayed too hot for too long during the summer), and my brother and sister in the back. We were the second car stopped at the light and when the light turned green the car in front of us didn’t move. One of us kids, probably me, told my mom to “honk the horn at ’em”. We had places to be and sitting in a car being driven around is hard business! But my Mom didn’t honk. She just said “give them a second to notice it’s green.” So we did and eventually the driver noticed the green light and we all went on our merry way. After we finally got going she told us that horns aren’t for telling someone you are in a hurry. They’re to keep you safe.
That scene played out a hundred times when I was kid and I never thought much of it except for the times where we’d have to sit still an extra 5 or 10 seconds waiting for someone in the car ahead to “notice it’s green”.
A few weeks ago during my lunch break I pulled up to a 4 way stop and the light was red. I put my turn signal on so that I could make a right on red but before I could turn my head to the left to see if a car was coming the driver behind me was honking and flailing their arms. I wasn’t wrong. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t pulling into traffic. That little honk ruined the next ten minutes for me. About 30 minutes later, after I was done with lunch and back in my car I realized I couldn’t see what was behind me in the parking lot without moving back a foot or two. I moved my car the littlest bit so I could see only to be met with more honking and gesturing. Can you believe it? I ruined their day because they had to drive 10 mph through a parking lot instead of 30 mph.
It was then that I remembered back to those times in the car where my mom would say “give them a second to notice it’s green.” I don’t live in a small town anymore and I don’t expect the pace of life to be same. I can’t get away with sitting around for half of a green light while someone dinks around in their car. I’d probably get beeped at for not beeping at someone. But I wish more people were taught the mindset my Mom taught me. You can “give someone a second” or you can take and ruin someone’s next ten minutes because you’re rushing around. It’s such a simple thing but with the world’s collective mood resting somewhere between irate and insane small gestures like these add up.
Nowadays, as a new Dad I’m always thinking about the things I want to teach my little buddy and usually the only things that come to me are generic principals like “be nice”. But what does that really mean? Now I finally have a solid example. Give people a second to notice it’s green.