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Slice of Life By Jill Pertler

May 23, 2014

Car talk

`As drivers, we all possess certain pieces of equipment related to the operation of our vehicles. A license is a good start. Keys are a necessary second. GPS comes in handy for new and distant destinations. We all understand the importance of plenty of window washer fluid and regular oil changes. Car air fresheners work as fragrant reminders of a tropical island while on the interstate.

All these items help make life on the road safer and easier. But something’s missing. It’s a tool that we don’t have – yet – but I wish we did.

It involves communication. Not with your passengers. Not with your spouse via cell phone, but with those who share the road with you. Drivers have a need to communicate with one another – beyond a gesture involving the middle finger.

I’m proposing a universal set of hand signals – Car Sign Language, or CSL. Consider all the things we could say to each other if only we had a way to say them.

Countless instances of road rage could be alleviated if we had a sign for “I’m sorry I pulled out in front of you,” or maybe one that meant, “I didn’t see you there in your 6,000-pound pick-up truck.” These are two gestures I wish I had in my arsenal on more than one occasion.

How about the times you’ve been driving behind a vehicle with its right blinker left on? The driver of the other car is unaware he’s proverbially blinking, which is not only distracting for other drivers but makes the blinker look a little less than brilliant. It’s the driving equivalent to having spinach between your teeth.

When you’ve observed a perpetual blinker, haven’t you wished for a way to prompt him to turn the darn thing off? We all have. We need a gesture for that.

Similar to the blinker, we need a sign to tell other drivers when their fuel door cover is open – sort of like coming out of the restroom with your own door open, if you catch my drift. Another gesture could call attention to a burned out head or taillight.

Up until now, I’ve suggested gestures dealing with a vehicle’s operations. But there’s more to driving than just blinkers and headlights. We’ve all shared the road with a vehicle occupied by a driver and canine passenger. I admire dogs sitting in the passenger seat with the window open and their snout sticking out and have often wanted to say, “Hey, cute dog,” but I’ve lacked the universal CSL to do so.

People go to a lot of creative effort and spend some hard-earned cash when deciding to use vanity license plates, but we’ve no way of telling them how awesome their NEVR L8, UR2SLO, X QQQ ME or PLZ STOP plates are. We need a quick and easy way to tell them, “Great plate.”

Just as important, we have a need to respond to those vanity plates that are so obscure we spend the next five miles – in vain – trying to figure out what the heck they meant. Imagine paying for a vanity plate, thinking you are so very clever, and then no one understands your cryptic message anyway. For example, I’d have a hard time figuring out these occupation-related plates: 22OVER7 (math teacher), DR 4 DK (dentist), LTAG8R (attorney), 2N2R4 (teacher), HSIF I (fisherman) and one of my favorites PP DOC (urologist). All are cute. Ingenious, even. But hard to figure out while doing 65 mph and not texting on the highway. I’m sure these good people would like to know their vanity is going right over our heads.

There’s so much more and so little column space. “Quit riding the brakes.” “You’re driving with your brights on.” “There’s green fluid leaking out your underside.” ‘Thanks for letting me in at the merge.” “Attractive leather interior.” “Nice Darth Vader costume.” “There’s a clown hiding in your back seat.” The list goes on and on.

All would prove useful time and time again. Some more than others, but you get my gist. May the force be with you. Yeah, we probably need one for that too.      


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