The Anti-Finger

Broadcast 2/2/2007

Perhaps you will remember last year when Miami was named the rudest city in which to drive. Yes, Miami drivers speed, cut each other off, fail to signal, run red lights and roll through stop signs. Having done these things, drivers are prone to make the usual rude gestures. The most common gesture made while driving, of course, can be described simply: a single finger – the third finger, digitus tertius -- extended into the air, defiant and hostile. This is sometimes called “the bird,” “flipping the bird,” or “flipping someone off.”

President Bush is known for having popularized the term “one-fingered victory salute” in a now infamous video of him that began appearing on the Internet in 2004. In Canada, this gesture is known as the “Trudeau salute,” after the former Prime Minister was known to wield it occasionally in his public life – including before the Canadian House of Commons. The list of famous fingers flippers is long: Nelson Rockerfeller, Eminem, Keanu Reeves in a couple of movies, Johnny Cash, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Michael Vick, and even the Miami Dolphin’s own Larry Csonka.

Now, I’m not a bad driver. By that, I mean I can handle a car and I usually follow the rules of the road. I don’t often talk on my phone while driving, I signal when turning, obey signs and lights – all that stuff. I do know for some of you out there, driving is a competitive sport like ice hockey or jiu-jitsu or cockfighting – but I just feel safer in the car if I’m taking it easy. Even so, sometimes another driver will be in my blind spot, or I might be in an unfamiliar part of town – and OOP, there it is. I have drawn the Wrath of the Finger.

So, here’s the problem. I made a mistake; the other driver is upset because of something I did on the road. If some sort of close encounter were to happen on the sidewalk or in a store, most people would apologize and smile and get on with their business. But when cars are involved, territorial instincts are activated, and any further wrong move on my part can trigger road rage. Thing is, I want to be able to apologize. Having been given the finger – that rudest of gestures – I need a countervailing gesture. I need The Anti-Finger.

Sadly, there is no Anti-Finger I can think of that really works. The thumbs-up, the friendly wave, the shrug and sheepish grin, the peace “V,” blowing kisses – those are too likely to be seen as sarcasm. More elaborate combinations – some illustrative sign language of the road – take too long to perform and, more dangerously, involve removing both hands from the wheel. Smacking your own forehead or shooting yourself with a finger gun could be taken as a threat. How can you say: “I’m a loser!” from behind the wheel? I look pretty dumb with my finger and my thumb in the shape of an L on my forehead.

I think the best Anti-Finger is simply to point at yourself and nod: “You’re right, my bad.” A one-handed gesture, the index finger delineates the source of the problem. Better yet, don’t use the index finger at all. Take that digitus tertius, and carefully, carefully extend it and point the finger of blame at yourself. “Yep, that was me, and I am sorry. Allow me to help you out: I give myself the bird.”

1 comment:

Veronica K said...

hmmm, I have somewhat of a problem with ,well, not road rage, more like road "really miffed". And occasionally someone will so "miff" me that I give them the salute, usually bc I believe they put my kids in danger with their rude stupidity. Anyway, I think I may try the self salute when I've ticked someone else off. sounds reasonable
PS: Wanna know what rude road behavior makes me the maddest? TALEGAITERS (or is it Talegater, is their gait to close to my tale, or is their tale too close to my gate?)