Wisdom > Spoiler

Disarm hostile motorists with a simple hand gesture

You made a motoring blunder? Be humble and acknowledge it

Traffic altercations are never worth your energy. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Maybe it’s the tropical heat. Maybe it’s the traffic congestion. Maybe it’s our macho culture. Whatever the reason, Filipino motorists seem to easily flare up behind the wheel at the slightest provocation. Accidentally cut them off? They’ll give chase. Refuse to let them pass? They’ll raise a finger. Beat them to a parking slot? They’ll deliver a death stare.

Honestly, it’s like sharing the road with gangsters who are always spoiling for a fight. Why step out of the car and challenge the other driver to a brawl over some otherwise harmless honking three blocks back? Was the incident such an emasculating experience that the offended party feels the need to retrieve his balls from another man who clearly isn’t even aware of his crumbling world (over an inadvertent swerve)?

But it is what it is. Can’t do anything about other people’s temperament, right? Well, not exactly. You have something at your disposal which you can always use to defuse a potentially dangerous situation. We just never use it because we think it’s a sign of weakness or cowardice. I’m talking about a simple, friendly wave of the hand. One that says: “I’m sorry about that error back there.” Or even: “I’m not fighting you, brother…calm down.”

But because countless Filipino men grew up in tough environments where the refusal to fight back is seen as cravenness—“Hawakan mo nga ang tenga n’ya kung talagang hindi ka takot”—many of us walk into a skirmish without even pausing to think. It’s just an automatic thing: Someone throws down the gauntlet, we think the only appropriate (read: manly) reaction is to pick it up. Anything less is unacceptable according to the Macho, Macho Man’s Code of Conduct (I’m sure a book like that exists somewhere).

These days, I’ve resorted to cordial hand gestures whenever I sense that I may have upset another motorist with an absent-minded turn of the wheel

I admit I used to behave that way. A long time ago, I ran after a bus driver, blocked him off and got out of the car to give him a piece of my mind. Wow, tapang. Stupid, actually. If the bus driver had a lead pipe and called my bluff, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now. I can’t even remember now why I was so pissed in the first place. The bus almost hit us? It jumped a queue? It didn’t give way? Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t worth my life or limb.

These days, I’ve resorted to cordial hand gestures whenever I sense that I may have upset another motorist with an absent-minded turn of the wheel. No use arguing or proving a point. Not worth a second of my time. I simply raise an open palm to convey my apology, and then issue a faint but sincere smile. It always works. The other party—before he can even roll down his window to send a stream of invective my way—is immediately pacified. Always. Because with that one gesture, I am able to both acknowledge my mistake and extend an offer of peace. Even the most hotheaded individuals won’t know how to respond to that. At worst, they’ll just shake their head and carry on; at best, they’ll feel charitable and return your friendly wave.

There are so many important things in life that are worth getting stabbed for—a traffic incident isn’t one of them. You want to show the world you’re fearless? Get involved in serious issues that affect your country. Just be sure you’re on the side of truth, justice and everything that’s decent and humane.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.