It’s nothing I ever really noticed when living in L.A., the rude, lunatic, outraged-at-humanity style of driving. But coming back now, I notice. If for a few milliseconds, while spaced out, I put on my left blinker light where there’s a sign that says “No Left Turn from 5 to 7 PM,” the drivers behind me will honk and swear as if I had just goose-stepped across the intersection Sieg Heiling while wearing full Nazi regalia.
I’ve spent a lot of time driving in Italy and there it’s a more Darwinistic approach of speeding up to an inch of your bumper, sitting on your ass and then passing you on a blind curve. In my experience, drivers in New York and Boston are perhaps more aggressive and crazier than Angelenos.
But not so here in the old South.
There are no problems merging. 95% percent of drivers will let you in, no honking, no threats on your life. In an old fashioned way, like in Japan, people have manners here. The traffic in Atlanta is supposedly the second worst in the country behind Los Angeles (which is really a hundred times worse), but people here are chill. It’s a Southern thing.
“Sir, it would be my great pleasure for you to merge in front of me at your convenience,” other drivers appear to be telling me. “At your leeeisure.”
When there is no traffic, or regardless really, people drive slow in the South. You can drive 55 in the fast lane of the freeway and no one will aim a gun at you from a passing car. Sometimes the Angeleno in me can’t handle the slow driving, when every lane of the freeway in front of me has someone skipping along like they are on a Sunday stroll in the park. But I’m getting used to this more relaxed, less animalistic style of driving.
Another difference between the South and most of the rest of the world is the whole unusual practice here of holding the door open for someone. It doesn’t matter if you are man or woman, you must hold the door open for anyone approaching in front or from behind. I would say if there is any person within 10-15 feet of the door you are opening, you absolutely must hold the door open for them, even if they are a six-year-old boy sucking on a lollipop and you are a 60-year-old grandma with a cane. That’s how they do things down here. I didn’t make up the rules.
And there’s something to it. I may be a neurotic Jew from the Westside, but I tip my hat to the Southern etiquette.