All righty now. Imagine yourself seated behind the wheel of your car or truck or SUV. Before you is a steering wheel, which is what you turn to make the vehicle go the way you want it to go — much more effective than reins or a rope.

Now, there may or may not be anything mounted on the right-hand side of the column to which the steering wheel attaches. Your shifter may rise from the floor.

But on the other side, the left side, almost without fail there is a little arm sticking out from the column. It might be made of a polymer or of steel or of anodized aluminum, and it might be bristling with little knobs and gaudy with calibration marks or a just simple stalk. The newer the vehicle, the greater the complexity of that little arm. The one on my truck controls my parking lights, headlights, fog lamps, and my brights. It is packed with gadgetry.

Whatever yours is made of and whatever it has on it, its PRIMARY purpose is, and ever HAS been, to serve as a lever to allow you to signal those in front of or behind you which way you are about to turn that steering wheel I mentioned earlier.

Time was, you stuck your arm out the window opening and let other drivers know your intentions. Sometimes you, one of the other drivers, knew only that the window was down and that the driver in front of you intended to do something besides maintain the same speed and direction.

The car companies have made it much easier for us in the past fifty or sixty years by mounting that little lever on the steering column, so all we have to do, rain or shine, is reach three or four inches with our left hand and flick it up if we're planning to turn right, down if we're planning to turn left. The brake lights let drivers behind know that we’re slowing down or stopping.

So unless your car is a flathead V-8 Ford or something earlier, it has that little lever sticking out of the left of the steering wheel. I mean, 60 years ago, you might have witnessed some guy calling the wife and chirren around to the driver’s side of the car and pointing at the turn signal lever and saying, “I just wanted y’all to see what we have come to. Look at that. You see that little silver lever there? All you gotta do is push it up and lights come on on the front and back of the right side of the car, right above the bumper, and people know yer turnin’ right. And if you push it down, lights come on on the front and back of the left side of the car and people know yer turning left. Ain’t that somethin’? Ain’t gotta roll down the winder and stick my arm out in the rain and cold anymore. They have done thought of everthang.”

Now, the really good part about all this is that it is so easy to use that little lever. You can do it with one finger or two or your whole hand, but it takes precious little pressure to click it up or down. Oh, they have made it SO easy. Reach your finger or fingers up there, move the lever up or down, and the drivers in front of or behind you know that you are about to make a move to the right or left. Whatever other functions it might have, there is no STRAIGHT-ON or BACK-UP built into that little lever. Up for right. Down for left. A MULE could learn it: GEE or HAW.

Even the manuals explicitly explain their function. My Toyota Tundra manual actually has an illustration of the signal lever, complete with arrows pointing up or down. The directions read, “To signal a turn, push the headlight/turn signal lever up or down to position” 1. You gotta be so grateful for that kind of attention to detail.

OK, so what am I getting at? Just this: Though every vehicle you are likely to encounter has such a lever mounted on the left side of its steering column, roughly 30 percent of the people driving them seem totally unaware that they are there. Or they don’t know what they are for.

WHY, WHEN YOU ARE SITTING AT AN INTERSECTION, WAITING TO PULL OUT ONTO A MAIN ROAD, DOES A MENTALLY CONSTIPATED IDIOT NOT GIVE A SIGNAL WHILE APPROACHING FROM THE LEFT WHEN HE INTENDS TO TURN ONTO THE ROAD YOU ARE ON? ALL HE HAS TO DO IS FLIP THAT LEVER UP, AND YOU KNOW HE’S TURNING RIGHT, TO THE LEFT OF YOU, AND YOU CAN SLIP ON OUT ONTO THE PRIMARY ROAD. NOOOOOOOOOO. HIS MIND IS ON WHAT KINDA DEALS HE’S GONNA FIND AT WAL-MART SAREDY MORNING OR WHAT KIND OF MEAT HE’S GONNA HAVE BATTERED AND FRIED AND LAID ON HIS PLATE THAT EVENING OR WHETHER HE’LL FARE BETTER IN THE BEDROOM WITH BOXERS OR BRIEFS. OR IT’S A WOMAN IN ANOTHER UNIVERSE WITH A PHONE MASHED TO HER EAR. WHATEVER, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO SIT THERE AND WAIT UNTIL THE FOOL HAS ACTUALLY MADE THE TURN AND CLEARED YOUR VEHICLE BEFORE YOU CAN BE CERTAIN THAT HE/SHE REALLY INTENDED TO TURN RIGHT. Then YOU can get on with your life.

Swutta mean? It is careless inattention or field-grade inconsideration or oblivion or stupidity. But it is always one of those.

OK, I’m through with the venting. But if you make such a move on a guy and he throws both hands up in appeal and looks at you as if he thinks you are an idiot, know that he does. And that you are.

Why not just slip out to your car or truck or SUV right now and get behind the wheel, turn on the key, play with that lever, that modern miracle. Let it click its little green lights for you. Imagine what it will do for you and for your fellow drivers, with only the touch of a finger.

(For those without left arms, I apologize.)

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