Readers often suggest topics for my columns, and by far, the number one thing everyone wants to read is a story on why (insert one or the other) Northerners / Southerners don’t use their turn signals. I’ve avoided the issue like a lying, crying politician, because it’s a scorching hot topic in my own house.
My New Jersey born husband learned to drive on the New Jersey coast of Florida where the roads were flat and straight, and most drivers were over the age of 120. Bless his heart, until we were married, he never even knew cars had a turn signal. The non-stop blinking was thought to be faulty brake lights, and no one associated it with actually making a turn.
On the other hand, I learned to drive on the Alabama coast of Florida where you often had to navigate around tractors, cows, or a mobile home on its way home. I use my turn signal so much I’ve sometimes absentmindedly engaged it when leaving my own driveway.
I’m the first born in my family and Bob is the eldest son who has many first-born tendencies, so we are both terrific bossy-pants back-seat drivers who have a need to control the person behind the wheel. Lucky for him I’m here to help.
“Click your thingy-blinker!” I kept telling him when we first married. “the what?” He finally figured out I meant “turn signal.” That translation opened the door for more productive instructions like, “go up here a-ways before you turn up yonder.” When he finally deciphered half of what I was saying, we made an agreement — we wouldn’t coach the one who was driving unless we felt our lives were in imminent danger. We soon realized we had very different definitions of “danger.”
I can finally report I don’t think the issue of the blinker belongs exclusively to one geographic region. Some born in these parts, like me, love the blinker, yet Tina Rae said she never uses her blinker in South Georgia because, “Everyone around here knows where I’m going.” So true. If I get behind my friends in traffic, I know where they work, shop, worship, get their nails done and the road where they’ll turn to go home. No blinker needed, just a friendly wave.
Rather than location of birth, I think the blinker debate is rooted in rule followers vs. rule breakers. My husband was born breaking the rules and made it through school by charming the nuns. I, on the other hand, sailed through school with a piece of chalk in my hand, writing the names of the talkers on the board while the teacher was out of the room (it was for your own good).
Black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, no white shoes after Labor Day, forks on the left, glassware on the right and blinkers hypnotically flashing every time we turn or change lanes is a perfect world for me. Whether he finally saw the benefit of blinkers, or suffered from sheer exhaustion from debate, something finally “clicked “and my husband now uses his blinker most of the time. We’re old enough now that my new job is to remind him to turn it off after ten minutes.
This story first appeared on AL.com
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