A couple of days ago I found myself (as I do pretty much every day of my life) on the highway. I hadn’t bothered to check my GPS for traffic before getting on, but since I was early to my appointment, I didn’t mind it too much when I came over a hill to discover a seemingly endless line of brake lights. It was stop-and-go for what felt like five miles but was probably closer to just half of one, and the source of the build-up was nowhere in sight. Then, on my left, I saw a blinker turn on, signaling that its owner wanted to come into my lane.
Now, I live in Texas, where blinkers are optional, and oftentimes you have a better chance of getting into another lane by not turning yours on. People can be ruthless, man. I often see drivers deliberately speed up just to get in the way of someone who’s trying to merge, and then, of course, there are always those who don’t merge when they see the need to do so but zip past everybody else and only start merging when there is literally nowhere else to go. We have a lot of those, and I can understand not wanting to let them in, since they didn’t wait their turn, but still. Being not quite an authentic Texan, I don’t usually follow the Texan road rules. I’m the type of driver that annoys the ones behind me by slowing down and letting people in. I like to do it. It makes me feel like a nice person, like I’m doing something good in the world, especially when the driver I let in actually gives me a grateful wave. (Nevermind the dozens of drivers behind me who would love to shoot a different kind of hand signal at me.)
The thing about this particular situation the other day, however, was that it wasn’t just an ordinary car wanting to merge into my lane under ordinary circumstances. The blinker I saw was attached to an eighteen-wheeler, and traffic was bumper to bumper. In order to let him (other drivers are always generically male, right?) into my lane, I would have had to stop completely and even back up a little bit just to make sure he had enough space. After checking my rearview mirror I decided that the guy behind me would definitely not appreciate me backing up in the middle of the highway. Still, I was determined to let the eighteen-wheeler in, so I slowed down to a crawl in order to let the car in front of me–a very manly, very Texan, Ford F-150–pull ahead. But then something unexpected happened.
The truck in front of me did not pull ahead. Instead, it came to a complete stop (in the middle of the highway!), and then began to back up toward me. I watched, not quite believing my eyes, as the eighteen-wheeler happily maneuvered into my lane, ahead of the truck. Then the F-150 shifted back to drive and we all went along on our merry ways as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. But it was out of the ordinary. This type of behavior simply doesn’t happen every day on Texas highways. I was suddenly filled with so much gratitude and admiration and respect for the driver of that truck. A kindred spirit! An empathetic soul! Maybe Texas really is starting to change, after all. Maybe we’re on our way to living up to those green “Welcome to Texas!” signs along our borders that have always made me chuckle because of the phrase printed at the bottom: “Drive friendly–the Texas way!”
But then I looked at the license plate of the very manly, very Texan F-150. Freaking Iowa.