Turn Signal Love
Communication is hard, but good
In my roundabout justice post, a lot of the feedback I received was focused on the traffic flow. Which is great. Some traffic circles may warrant analysis, and a couple of these circles on my normal routes gave me pause; hopefully I will consider others in traffic circles instead of just me.
Ultimately, though, most of my life is not spent driving, for which I am thankful. Ergo, the more difficult and important inner circles I enter are in other areas of life and those are the bigger justice issues I meet. All that to say, as we look at traffic up close in this substack series, it's primarily a lens we are gazing through rather than the subject of study. Sure, we’ll discover some traffic eccentricities together. But hopefully through the familiarity of driving, we'll be able to wrestle harder with the things that are less tangible.
Also, I made a passing comment last post about roundabouts in England, but wasn't quite as honest as I could have been. If I had been more honest, I would have told you a story about the first time I drove in England and how I exited a roundabout three times and drove miles out of our way because everything was backwards, my phone navigation was out of sync, and I was completely out of my element. We made it to our hotel after dark - what should have taken us ten minutes.
But it is hard to be honest. And frankly, communication is hard - period. Good communication speaks true things and does so in a kind way. It also tells another person what direction you are going in. Or what your intentions are. You know, like a turn signal.
Yep, this would be where someone could rant about how nobody uses turn signals. Incidentally, that ranting person would likely be speaking a true thing about the lack of turn signals. But it might not be said in a kind way. Rants about pet peeves are rarely kind.
That said, turn signals were designed with a purpose. Turn signals communicate. When used properly turn signals tell others what I intend to do and where I plan to go. They express my will and my direction and allow my lane neighbors to know how to respond and interact with me. My turn signals protect others and guide them how to make choices that steer them clear of danger. Turn signals tell others the truth about the reality of my future movements and do so in a way that considers the well being of others.
I don't always use my turn signal. It takes effort. It requires me to think of others instead of just me.
When I was in India in 2004, I was with a small team of people and one day we were waiting for the bus. It was crowded. Like standing room only, but more like subway-before-COVID standing room only when you literally touched more than three people at the same time. I thought it would be more enjoyable to run back across “town” (Bangalore was bigger than a town) instead of ride the bus with the team. I told the team what I intended to do, but last minute and they thought I was joking. It was as if I turned on my turn signal for one blink and then stopped. I ran alongside the bus for a few city blocks but eventually couldn't keep up. I ran across town, got a little turned around, but made it home safely, after dark, but only a few minutes after my team had arrived by bus. They were upset. They thought I had gotten lost, or worse. I had not communicated well. I had thought only about me.
As it turns out, communication is bi-directional. A two way street, as they say. Listening as well as speaking. Looking for someone else's turn signal as well as remembering to signal myself. Communication takes effort, but not a lot, and it's good work, worth the effort.
Like turn signals, it can become a habit, and in time being a thoughtful communicator can come naturally. One of my readers provided some great comments on the last post and said they saw others using turn signals while in a traffic circle and have since adopted the practice as a kind way to let those entering the circle know where they intend to go. I think that's a great idea.
But for me, the hardest thing about good communication is giving grace to others when they don't communicate well. AKA loving the people who do not use their turn signal. Yeah. Easiest thing in the world is for me to gripe and stew about the guy who swerved in front of me without telling me he was going to do so. Truth be told, I saw him coming and guessed his intentions, but you know what, he didn't signal, so I'm angry.
If I'm really honest with myself and you, I do this with my wife and kids and work associates - routinely. “What? You said we were going to do this tonight.” Or “Please ask before doing such and such.” Or “I thought we talked about doing the project this way but now…” Don't get me wrong, communication and good turn signals are great. But if I were more attentive and less focused on me, I might see where traffic is headed and anticipate the flow rather than acting surprised and offended when things don't go my way in life.
In fact, when I choose to overlook a turn signal offense, I communicate love. If I were to respond with rage or even quiet bitterness, I would only further confuse the traffic craziness and add to the chaos. Instead, I have a choice - on both sides of the communication. Is my blinker flashing? And will I give grace when I don't see one?
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