I have barely escaped head-on collisions twice in two days. Neither of the offending drivers acknowledged their error. Why isn't there some kind of "I'm sorry" signal that at-fault drivers could use to make amends? It might prevent a lot of road rage. —Harlan B.
Sorry, Harlan; I almost didn't see you there—I've just been sitting here at the piano, trying to compose a sequel to "When They Begin the Beguine," which I'm hoping to call "When They Consume the Consommé."
You're not the first motorist to notice that having only a horn for communication is like trying to have a polite conversation in a language whose only word is "DICK!" Various solutions have been proposed over the years to give the open road a more mannerly patois.
The National Motorists Association, a political lobby for drivers, recognized way back in the late '80s that motorists needed a better way to apologize, and included a sign for "sorry" in their "Seven Sensible Signals," a set of proposed gestures for communication between drivers.
As a high-profile national automobile organization, the NMA was well-positioned to set a new standard, and really had to bend over backward to fuck it up. But they did! Their suggestion was that drivers say "sorry" with two raised fingers.
The two-fingers gesture has meant many things—"victory," "peace," "two more beers"—but "sorry" isn't one of them. If you actually used it after cutting somebody off, the message they'd likely get is, "Whoa, brah, guess I'm too stoned to drive. Peace out, lol!"
I spent several hours reading the takes of ordinary people on this topic, and there actually is a kind of consensus. Most folks propose some variation on the "my bad" gesture—ducking your head and holding one palm up, as if raising an embarrassed hand to take responsibility.
You can also hold both palms up, as if to ward off a well-deserved bonk on the head, and perhaps even wiggle your hands—the "me so crazy" gesture.
Granted, a lot of these involve taking your hands off the wheel, but let's be honest—if you didn't suck at driving anyway, you wouldn't be apologizing.
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