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No, you go first. I insist.

This passive-aggressive driving has got to stop. And if it arrives to my right at a four-way stop, it must go. It’s the law. I live in a suburb, where under the guise of Minnesota Nice, my fellow drivers are driving me crazy. Just this evening, I came to a four-way stop. I was making a left turn. The driver opposite me, who arrived at the intersection at the exact same time, was going straight. He made the international gesture for “No, you go”—a sweep of the hand pointing me in the direction I was turning, as if I didn’t know. But he was going straight. The law and common sense dictate that he should go first.

I sighed and turned, breaking the law but doing as I was told. I give up. Also, a trip to California has made me too mellow for these parts. In California, they have pedestrian right-of-way: cars must yield to pedestrians. In Minnesota, by way of contrast, drivers ignore or attempt to actually hit those on foot. It’s an odd mindset, considering their attempts to control which automobile turns when and in what order, traffic laws notwithstanding.

I’m not innocent here. I was recently pulled over by a local cop who claimed I failed to yield to him. I drove across the intersection at the same time that a bus did, even though the cop was to my right, and thus had right of way. It was cheeky, but unfortunately I get cheeky when I’m nervous, and I get nervous when there’s a cop at the intersection. Also, I ascertained that I could cross the intersection at the same time as the bus and do my bit to keep traffic moving. God knows with all the other drivers out there waving at each other—No, you go first—someone has to make up a little lost time. But seconds after I cleared the intersection, the lights were flashing and I was sitting at the side of the road, rifling through the glove box for my proof of insurance.

Any guilt I felt over this misjudgment was assuaged when—after looking at my license and checking my record—the cop said, “I’m going to give you a break this time. But from now on, try to remember the rules of the road that you learned a long time ago.

Now that’s Minnesota nice.

It is an awkward dance we perform with our fellow human beings. We want to be civil, but it’s so damn hard. I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate my mom’s birthday. I had reserved a specific table at the restaurant. But when we got there, the table was occupied by a half-dozen blue-hairs. A very similar table was available right next to where we wanted to be, so it wasn’t a big deal. The ladies were kind of boisterous, and because they were sitting at what was supposed to be our table, I didn’t feel bad about eavesdropping. They were gossiping about someone, and one of the women said, “You remember her, don’t you? She was always standing up for liberal causes, driving us crazy, and trying to cut ahead in line for communion.”

I immediately admired the woman she was talking about, whoever she was. I pictured her at church committee meetings, advocating for crazy, liberal ideas like access to health care and stocking food shelves for the children of ne’er-do-wells. Maybe she had to cut in line at communion because she was scheduled to serve lunch at the soup kitchen. Or maybe she just was anxious for a taste of that unearned right of way that is God’s grace. At House of Mercy, Russell and Debbie say, “This is the Lord’s table, and all are welcome.” The conservative ladies at the neighboring table would add, “But wait your turn.”

One more story: While I was waiting for sandwiches to be prepared at a deli counter in California, people kept asking if my order had been taken, or if it was okay to take their turn. As I answered for the third time that I was waiting for my order to be prepared and that the other customer could go ahead and place his order, Keith caught my vibe. He turned to Sam and said, “It’s like Minnesota drivers. No, you go. At some point, you want to take the keys out of the ignition, wave them out the window at the other driver and say, ‘No, I insist. You go first.’”

Next time I’m sure there’s not a cop anywhere near the intersection, I might try that.
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