I remember a visit from my mother to Germany some 12 years ago. After surviving the trip down the autobahn with me at the wheel (we made a deal that my car was not to drive faster than 140 km/h with her in it), I thought all would be good. Wrong. This is the conversation we had as we entered my neighborhood.
(My mother was looking uncomfortable)
Me: What’s wrong?
Mother: Are you sure this is a street?
Me: What? (confusion written all over my face)
Mother: This street. It’s no wider than an alleyway.
Me: It’s a normal street in a normal German town, mother. You know that.
(10 seconds of silence)
Mother: Watch out!
(My mother puts on her passenger breaks and grabs the imaginary roller coaster bar on the dashboard. We were only driving 30 km/h).
Me: What’s wrong now? (distracted)
Mother: We’re driving down a one way street! (panic in her voice)
Me: I’ve lived here for a while and I’ve never noticed that it was a one-way street. (irritation in my voice)
Mother: Well, it must be a one-way street. There’s another car right in front of us trying to get down the same street.
Me: Ah, a game of chicken.
Mother: What? (beads of sweat forming on her forehead)
Me: Just joking. I’ll pull over a bit and they can squeeze by. (trying to hide a Cheshire cat grin)
Mother: Wouldn’t it be better to go the right direction the next time? (eyebrow raised)
Me: Mother, it is a two-way street. I’m not breaking any rules. (eyebrow raised above hairline accompanied by a heavy sigh)
Mother: Oh. (Even heavier sigh)
(The car driving by waves in gratitude for letting him pass. I wave back.)
Mother: Did you know them?
Me: No. That’s what you do when someone let’s you pass. (Sigh)
Mother: Oh. (Holds her purse tighter on her lap and pretends to enjoy the view out of the window.)
Today, I was out with a friend and we had a similar situation (except my friend was not the least bit nervous about my driving skills and never questioned the direction of my driving as it was her street we were pulling into). I pulled to the side and flashed for the driver of a plum-colored Mercedes to go first. And drive by she did without any acknowledgement that a nicety had been done for her. Not a big one. But a courteous one still.
It’s hard to be polite in a world that isn’t always polite in return, but do it anyway!