Back when one of my duties at the college was to advise the student newspaper, some 25 years ago, it was not unusual for us to work late into the night, for me to spring for pizza and soda, and for the weary students to get a little frisky. On one such night, they all decided to have their individual pictures taken "throwing the finger."
They thought it was hilarious. And some came up with some remarkably creative poses.
"Okay, Ed," they said at last, "your turn."
"What the heck," I thought, but before I struck a pose of my own, I stopped. It occurred to me in my entire life I had never thrown the finger. At first the students thought I was lying. But when I assured them I wasn't, they were shocked.
"Oh my God!" one of them exclaimed. "How do you drive?"
It's still one of the funniest things I've ever heard.
And one of the saddest.
Most of us drive with a chip on our shoulder, all too ready to honk a horn, shake a fist, or, when all else fails, yes, throw the finger. Courtesy on the road — something my dad drummed into me the first time I ever got behind the wheel — went out, it seems, with my shoulder length hair and bell bottom jeans.
Until, perhaps, now.
That wisecrack of my student came to mind the other day when I put on my blinker to make a left-hand turn and the driver approaching me in the other lane came to a stop, flashed his lights and waved me through.
Nothing like a global scare to bring out what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." He used that phrase at the end of his first inaugural address, prefacing it with, "We are not enemies, but friends."
The rush by some Americans to buy guns and stock up on ammo aside, it appears we are once again beginning to look upon one another as friends. There's something about all of us being in the same boat that reminds us we're all in the same boat. In a blog last week, I wrote about the novel coronavirus and the restrictions that have been placed upon us to combat it being a great equalizer. Whether you drive a Maserati or a Ford Focus doesn't make much of a difference when there's no place to go. Whether you take your meals at the Westmoreland Club or at Pittston Diner doesn't much matter when both are closed.