Saturday, October 29, 2005

On the road to recovery

Has courtesy died?

In the last few weeks, I've noticed a sudden change for the worse amongst our residents. No, it's not looting or blaming the Federal government for all their woes, but something much more innocuous, but important to civilized society, nonetheless. What I have noticed in my travels around the New Orleans area is that people, not all, but enough to notice, have suddenly taken a leave of common courtesy.

Is this even worth mentioning?

Let me explain some of what I witnessed. On Thursday this past week, twice, once on Williams near West Esplanade and the other on Severn near Lakeside, I had two female drivers block the turning lanes on major streets. This was presumably so they wouldn't have to wait a nanosecond longer than necessary to pull out of a parking lot and in to on-coming traffic. Also, I mention these driver's gender, solely because this appears to be how this form of temporary (I hope) insanity seems to be manifesting itself in the fairer sex. In a similar time period, the men in the driving population tended to turn abruptly and without signaling; when cited for their negligence, they always gestured crassly as if they were the wronged party in this transaction.

Now, I can accept and understand some absentmindedness due to the tragedy, but that only lasts until you've been politely notified of your transgression. The two female drivers I mentioned before acted as if they didn't hear anyone honking at them to back out of a lane of traffic. Forgive me, but am I wrong to be really bothered by an apparent sense of entitlement displayed by many of the people I see on the road?

I don't think so, and here's why.

First, if you think your last several weeks have been bad, consider that your fellow drivers' might have been as bad or much, much worse. Second, this excuse of "it's a bad time" doesn't excuse you from being a jerk. Third, the traffic violations I've mentioned are examples of rules that are meant to protect all of us. Finally, and this is a repeat, stop thinking solely about your own cares.

This is a tough time for all of us, so let's consider how we treat one another in this very stressful time.

Uncle Speed


At 9:44 PM, Blogger cheezwhiz said...

I with you uncle speed. i'm on loyola ave waiting to go west on the i-10. some dude with a florida license plate, in his haste to shoot across 4 lanes of traffic, from a side street almost hits me.

when i look at him with the "what the hell" look, he took a water bottle and threw it out of his truck and at my car.

people said that they knew when nyc was back to normal when cab drivers started hinking at each other again. i guess jefferson parish is back to normal now that the assholes in the american pickup from the early 90s starts tossing things out of the passenger window. this gives me an idea for a post.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

How is this any different than normal times? What gets me are those people who just plow right through major intersections in New Orleans simply because the traffic lights aren't functioning. Most people are careful and defensive, but then every so often you get the distracted person who probably just returned to the city for the first time who simply forgets to stop at the Washington Ave./Carrollton Ave. intersection.

But, as long as people aren't killed by accidents, I figure that "common courtesy" is to give people the benefit of the doubt in these troubled and confusing times and to forgive such recklessness on the part of the at-fault driver.

I will, though, take issue with the general notion that people are less courteous now than before. It seems to me that it is infinitely much more pleasant and neighborly these days to be on the road and in contact with others in and around the City.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

Huck, you just like disagreeing with me. I say the sky is blue, what say you?

Seriously, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt when I honk at them to back out of a lane of traffic. Before the storm, this would have resolved the issue with a basic mea culpa (that's "my bad" for you NOPS grads). However, these days I am completely ignored.

My basic point is, my September has been as bad or worse than most. We've all had a rough time, but that is not an excuse to lose our civility.

Btw, I will agree with Huck on one of his points. It has been more neighborly in the residential areas. Perhaps, it just the frustration of shopping at too few places that is getting to people.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

Hmmm... Do I detect a bit of private/parochial school elitism here? My daughter will be fully bilingual in Spanish and English thanks to a public school education in New Orleans. So I've no complaints there.

But on to the subject, I agree that people are taking more license with things these days, and this includes with their approach towards traffic etiquette -- both in blocking traffic lanes AND in honking at them to back out of such lanes. Patience is the virtue we hear so much about in New Orleans these days. In that spirit, I agree with your closing comment in the original post: "This is a tough time for all of us, so let's consider how we treat one another in this very stressful time."

In fact, we might even find some truth in what an ancient bard once wrote: "Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit." And since your Latin is so good (and hopefully not limited to a common church phrase like "mea culpa"), I'll let you figure that one out on your own.

Pax tecum.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

Salve, magister

I look forward to that day, Huck.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

By the way, just out of curiosity, where did you learn your Latin, Uncle Speed?

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

Jesuit and UNO, mostly UNO.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

So, you are a Blue Jay, too. I rather suspected. Isn't it a small world. I'm an '86 grad.

My brother, who IS a Jesuit ('87 grad and currently a Jesuit Brother), was living in the High School during Katrina and had to be evacuated by boat a few days after the storm. (I've seen the photo album where you go to the High School.) His twin lived on 18th Street in Lakeview between Fleur de Lis and West End Blvd. You know what happened to his home.

I also have another younger brother who graduated from Jesuit in '91.

Again, it's a small world, don't you think? God bless.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Scott M. Phillips said...

There's a lot of us around these parts. Email me directly sometime.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

I would be happy to do so, except that I can't seem to find your email address anywhere on the blog. Feel free to write to me at


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