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TAKE THE "B" TRAIN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, May 10, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

TAKE THE "B" TRAIN

By ZORAN SEGINA

Hello? Yes, you in the fancy sporty vehicle (or sedan or SUV - take your pick). My motoring colleague. You, who just suddenly decided to move two lanes over at 70 in heavy westbound traffic. Yes, yes, I’m talking to you.

You see, when you forked over thirty or forty grand for that fancy car or a truck of yours, they sold you all kinds of goodies. High-powered engine, leather seating, ABS, air conditioning, you name it. And somewhere in these 3, or 4, or 8 thousand pounds of metal, leather, and plastic, there is a remarkable device in plain view. It can be found both inside and outside. It’s easy to reach, on the left hand side of your steering wheel, a lever of sort. When you push it down, it instantaneously illuminates two or more lights on the left side of your car. Imagine that. When you push it up, it does the same thing - only this time on the right side of your car.

The most fascinating thing is that the lights are blinking. This device really does something extraordinary. The blinking lights will actually be interpreted and understood by the rest of us as your intention to change direction of travel. Including moving over two westbound lanes at 70 in heavy westbound traffic.

You say you knew all of this? If so, did you know that, before the blinkers were invented, the drivers had to signal by hand their intent to change the direction of travel. Pointing straight out the left window meant “I am turning left.” Pointing up meant “I am turning right,” and pointing down would tell the fellow driver that you were slowing down. This required having the driver’s window down at all times. Which can make driving miserable. Wind, noise, pollution. Not to mention Big Bear Lake in January. Or the San Gabriel Valley in August.

Oh, I see. You say that if you use the blinker, a jerk from the second lane will speed up to cut you off. Or that you may be too busy in your car, yakking on your cell phone, drinking coffee, reading the LA Times (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). Or that you learned to drive in a part of the world where nobody ever pays any attention to signals. Including those annoying red lights at the intersection, which only slow you down.

Yes, I know you’re careful and watch the traffic. But you didn’t two minutes ago on that westbound lane, when you nearly wiped me out. True, we Angelenos cannot live without constant stimulation. Earthquakes, fires, floods, riots, drive-bys, car chases, changing lanes surreptitiously - at 70 in heavy traffic. Some of us (just to mix things up and add to the excitement) keep the blinker on for miles - without changing lanes. The true thrill seekers go for the ultimate: Moving to the right while keeping a left signal on - or vice versa. You haven’t seen them? I have. One time too many.

Perhaps we met before. In traffic school, some of the attendees were in for an “unsafe lane change.” Which is a fancy word for not using the blinker. Says California Vehicle Code, Section 22107: “Person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway . . . only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided.” This means “continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.” (Section 22108). “The signals. . . shall be given by signal lamp.” (Section 22110.) This may be boring legalese - until you see the blinking lights, usually blue and red, on a black and white Ford Crown Victoria, followed by the magic words: ”May I see your driver’s license.” Or, “Do you know why I stopped you?” (Oh, you want to know why I was in traffic school? Speeding. Hey, I’m no angel I do try to signal when changing lanes, however.)

Now, back to those jerks that speed up to cut you off. Yes, I know they exist. But let’s pretend just for a second that they don’t. That we are in Italy of some years ago, and that every time you want to change lane you signal, the driver behind you actually honors your signal and slows down to let you in. Fantasy? Keep reading.

I am inviting you to a club. A very exclusive fraternity or sorority as the case may be. It’s called the B Club (for blinker). Or, if you wish to be more secretive, a 22107 Club (for the Vehicle Code section - lawyers may like this). You need no formal recommendation or application. The only requirement is that you drive as though we were in Italy: I pledge I will signal every time I change a lane. And, every time you signal, I will let you in. And you have to make the same pledge.

Other drivers may think that we are pushovers. But then one day we will meet again. And the following will happen. You’ll signal the lane change. I’ll slow down, just a bit to let you in. You’ll move in ahead of me. You’ll then raise the palm of your hand, which will mean: “Thank you, my fellow club member.” And I’ll briefly flash my headlights to reply: “You’re welcome.” And, I know this sound crazy, but a certain feel-good sensation will come all over you, knowing that somewhere deep inside that dangerous and depraved mass of rushing metal (also known as the Southern California freeway system), you just met a fellow members of the B Club and forged a new alliance to keep the nearly extinct blinker tradition alive forever.

You say it’ll never happen? If you were in the number three lane of the Harbor Freeway southbound, on Monday, July 23rd, at 7:24 p.m., you would have met me and another club member doing exactly what I just described. A crazy coincidence you say? It was not the first time it happened to me. In fact, exactly twelve minutes later, on 10 westbound, you would have met me again - with another member, in a similar exchange. Our club may be exclusive, but it’s growing. ’Hope you can join us soon. Again, there’s no application needed. We’ll know who you are. And embrace you like a long lost relative who has finally come back.

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