Macho Men and the Turn Signal

Is this a Pittsburgh thing, or is it part of the new American psyche?  A growing number of people don’t use their turn signals.  They turn and when you slam on your brakes to avoid the collision, they give you a mean look.  They are angry at you for not anticipating their turn.


There have been pockets of this for ages.  An old Jerry Clower joke goes something like this:


Uncle Vercy wound up in the hospital.  He was drivin’ home, and when he turned left to go down the farm road, he was hit broadside by a feller from Nebraska who was headin’ fer the Orange Bowl game.


I went to visit him at the hospital.  I asked him, “Uncle Vercy, why didn’t you use your turn signal?”


Uncle Vercy says, “Everybody knows I live down that road!”


For those who don’t know Jerry Clower {1926 – 1998}, Jerry Clower was born in Mississippi and told stories about growing up there.  His fictional best friend {but based on a few real people} was Marcel Ledbetter.  Marcel’s father was Vercy, dubbed Uncle Vercy due to the friendship and respect shown one’s elders at the time.  Since Mississippi is between Nebraska and Miami, Florida {home of the Orange Bowl at the time – a distance of about 1,900 miles}, it is possible that he could be passing through that part of Mississippi, by unlikely.


Of course, in a bigger town, not everybody knows everybody else and everybody else’s business.  That includes people passing through town on their way to the Orange Bowl game.  Then again, you can tell the age of the old story.  Since they have changed the bowl game selection criteria, it has been a while since Nebraska dominated invitations to the Orange Bowl.


When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I was told by life-long residents of Pittsburgh that you had to be careful around drivers in the area.  There was a macho thing with turn signals.  Within a certain group of locals, you lost your manhood if you used a turn signal.


I had to remind my wife the other day.  She was leaving the parking lot of her favorite grocery store.  The lane that led to the entrance to the shopping area had a stop sign.  The entrance to the shopping area was straight ahead.  The on-coming traffic did not have a stop sign.  They could either turn left or go straight.  Of course, traffic could approach from the right and either turn left or right, also without a stop sign.


I have sat at that intersection for a long time, with angry traffic behind me, waiting for no cars approaching the intersection at all, afraid of the on-coming traffic turning left without a signal.  Yet, my wife started into the intersection with a white SUV approaching.  Without a turn signal, the white SUV turned left.  If my wife hadn’t slammed on the brakes, they would have collided.  The SUV driver became very angry.  The SUV driver had the right of way, if that really exists anymore.  What was wrong with this woman (my wife)?


My wife related the story to me when she got home.  I explained the macho thing again, to remind her.  The driver was simply afraid of losing his manhood.


My wife was indignant.  She replied, “The driver couldn’t lose his manhood!  The driver of the SUV was a woman!”


Add yours →

  1. “Using your turn signal is like giving away your plan to the enemy”
    Quoted in Readers Digest years ago, about the creed of Boston drivers.


    • Agreed. When the Army brought me back from Germany, my first eight months was an assignment in Watertown, MA. I can believe the Creed of Boston Drivers would include that, along with turning left without a left turn protective signal and dare people to hit you, and if you are white haired, never stop at a stop sign and then give a friendly wave to all of the cars that are honking. But maybe they drive differently since 1980.


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