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2002-08-01 11:27 a.m.

The turn signals on my car stopped working during my morning commute and I found myself feeling bothered—even choked—by it. I kept flipping the lever, but I saw no flashing green light and heard no monotonous tick–tick. It bothers me when other people do not signal, and I felt helpless and frustrated when my own turn signals did not work. I bet the people behind me thought I was so inconsiderate, weaving in and out of traffic in my stupid, red sports car—without the decency to signal. Does he think he owns the road? What a jerk! What, are his turn signals broken or something? Yes, now they are broken, actually. I imagined waving and pointing and extravagant, clumsy hand gestures to try to explain to passing drivers that I was not really a jerk, it was just that my car is crappy.

Turn signals speak a strange, non–verbal tick–tick language that is a mix between old–fashioned courtesy and parental warnings. They communicate pardon and please and excuse me. They also drop just–obvious–enough hints about intentions and impending hazards. I would be very unhappy if I could not communicate those things with my mouth or body language, and knowing this I should not have felt surprised at my discomfort when I could not express them with the blinking lights and tick–tick of my car, either.

Maybe I am just a communicator like that. Verbal, nor–verbal, or even blinking lights.

But, what if the whole world not only stopped using their signals, but also stopped saying please and excuse me and I'm sorry? We would all still get to work on time, and I would still get to drink iced tea and wear pants with straps all over them and have my nose pierced. But, my gut tells me that something would be missing. What would be missing is the respectful recognition of others in the world. By recognition I mean the expression with one's actions—like by saying hi or cleaning up one's mess or saying thank you—of an understanding that I am not alone and the world does not revolve around me any more than it revolves around you or you or you. I guess that otherless world is self–absorption or self–centeredness.

I wonder how many people I come into contact each day even think about anyone except themselves, or how their actions affect others. I wonder how much I do.