Don’t rage or ‘salute’ … smile

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Debbie and I are fans of the TV show “NCIS.”

We really liked the first several seasons of the program. A reccurring piece of humor that was used throughout each of those early episodes was the head-slap.

Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was often doing or saying something that bordered on being ridiculous and his boss, Agent Gibbs, would slap Tony on the back of the head to get his attention and bring him back to the task at hand.

The head-slap was never done out of meanness or to cause pain. It was never vindictive or cruel. It was what a father might do to mildly correct a child who needed redirection.

There are probably thousands of people flailing away in this world that could use a Tony DiNozzo head-slap to get them to pay attention and focus on what is happening around them. A lot of them are driving cars.

It happens almost every time I pull out of the driveway and onto any city street, county road, state highway or interstate. Like all of you, I often get to see other drivers do something totally ignorant, stupid or just plain bone-headed.

I know we should always avoid crossing the line that could lead to road-rage, but there are certainly times I would like to gently reach out and provide someone with a well-deserved head-slap.

Last week, while cruising east on Rombach Avenue, the car directly in front of us signaled that they were turning into the city park.

No problem. We both slowed down and that driver made a very proper right turn. However, there was a car coming out of the park that sped right onto Rombach Avenue without slowing down in the least. I had to hit my brakes to keep from clipping their bumper.

The driver didn’t appear to be paying attention to anything. She was talking to her front seat passenger; gesturing wildly with her hands. It looked like she was explaining how to hang wallpaper.

Between the wild hand movements and flipping her cigarette ashes out of her open window, I have no idea how she was steering the car. That’s when I saw the yellow caution sign hanging inside the rear-window of the car: “CAUTION – BABY ON BOARD.” I wanted to reach out and deliver a much needed head-slap.

A few years ago, I was driving down Locust Street heading for home. Being a one-way street, both lanes were heading west.

I admit, I was probably in the blind spot of the car that was slightly ahead of me in the left lane, but, without signaling a lane change, she started to turn right into my car. I beeped the horn to let her know I was there. It wasn’t a prolonged, obnoxious, watch-out horn blast. It was a short be-careful toot.

Her hand immediately shot out of her window to deliver a one-fingered salute. I thought, “What is wrong with you? I just saved us both from getting our cars tangled. It would have been your fault and you’re mad enough to flip me off.”

Where’s Agent Gibbs when a much deserved, head-slap needs to be delivered? But, you’ve got to just smile, laugh and let it go – even though giving a head-slap would feel good.

The funniest one-fingered salute from a driver I’ve ever heard about took place at a stop light. I heard about it from a friend. Both cars were stopped at a fairly long red-light. My friend had time to scan the back of the car in front of him. He saw one those small, plastic fish symbols attached to the truck.

These fish symbols, also called Ichthus symbols, come from the early days of Christianity. For a few thousand years, people who display this symbol were quietly signaling to other people that they are followers of Christ. Just below the fish symbol was a bumper sticker that said, “Honk if You Love Jesus.”

My friend, being a loving, Christian fellow, couldn’t help but give him a short, friendly honk. Immediately, the window came down, his arm shot out and his middle finger shot straight up.

My friend told me that his first thought was, “Thank you very much and God loves you, too.” As he told it, it was a very funny story. I like to think it was a borrowed car; yet, I also like to think that God might have given that fellow a friendly little slap to the back of the head just to let him know that he was out of line.

We all make mistakes when we drive, but let’s all strive to be polite and good-humored whenever we take to the streets. Getting angry, flipping people off and starting a confrontation will only make a bad situation worse and can be dangerous.

Driving isn’t a game or a competition. Signal your intentions. Learn to merge properly. Then, when somebody does something stupid, just smile and imagine that they just received a well-deserved head-slap for whatever bone-headed thing they just did.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist