Did COVID kill off simple common courtesy?

By T. Scott Boatright


These days it often seems like the coronavirus was also the start to the death knell to common courtesy, which more and more seems to be becoming a thing of the past.

It can be seen on our roads and highways. It can be seen in the stores we shop in and businesses we patronize. I’m not saying it’s everyone, but the fact of the matter remains — simple politeness no longer exists at the levels it did before COVID.

Not even close.

Did so much time living and working in a virtual and remote world cause people to forget how to use a simple turn signal? Did driving rules change during the pandemic so that drivers no longer feel they should move from the inside lane of an interstate when another vehicle is attempting to merge into traffic from an onramp, even when there is no traffic for hundreds of yards on the passing lane preventing them from doing so?

Apparently they must have, because many times in recent weeks I’ve had to drive past the end of a merge lane onto the shoulder of I-20 simply because a driver refused to give me room to pull out onto the interstate, even when they had plenty of room to do so.

And about those passing lanes — didn’t Louisiana create a law saying it is illegal for a slower moving vehicle to impede any other vehicle that is traveling in the same lane and behind that vehicle and obviously wanting to drive at a higher rate of speed than the impeding, slower-moving vehicle?

That law was actually enacted in Louisiana in 2011. Yet you see vehicles causing I-20 “logjams” all the time these days because the drivers seemingly believe they own all rights to the passing lane, even when they are driving 45 mph or slower.

I’ve seen it happen hundreds if not thousands of times over the past 12 years, yet I have never seen a vehicle pulled over for blocking left-lane traffic with a line of cars behind it wanting to move faster.

And let’s not talk about driving through downtown Ruston, where many drivers apparently feel it’s perfectly OK  to make a right-hand turn from the left-hand lane, or vice-versa, even if they force you to lock up your brakes to keep from hitting them.

How about trying to make a left-hand turn onto the Cooktown overpass (if anyone is brave enough to have their vehicle take the beating from driving on its road surface)? Even when it looks like it’s wide-open to do so, if there’s a vehicle driving northboard in the right lane that’s supposed to allow them to enter the I-20 onramp, many times that vehicle might wait until the last minute before jumping across the thick, white no-cross line dividing the lanes in order to continue driving northbound on Cooktown Road.

And then many times you hear a horn blast and get a one-finger salute in your rearview mirror because you didn’t realize that vehicle was going to make that sudden, and illegal, jump to the left lane.

But such can happen even when you’re not actually driving. I waited for around 10 minutes earlier this week in a line to get gasoline only to have another vehicle suddenly jump in and pull to the pump just as the vehicle in front of me that had just finished filling up pulled away. I raised my arms in a questioning way at that driver who jumped in and cut me off only to be cussed and “saluted” that time, too.

Moving through our stores can be just as dangerous these days. All too often someone locked onto their cellphone screen while still pushing their shopping cart forward will run right into you simply because they refuse to have the courtesy of looking where they were going. Sometimes the people are apologetic, and other times they get angry because it somehow became your fault they weren’t paying attention to where they were going.

How about store clerks that would rather carry on a phone conversation or talk to someone while ignoring the ever-lengthening line of people just standing there in limbo until that clerk decides it might be time to end their conversation and start actually doing their jobs?

And what about one of the largest stores in Lincoln Parish that in recent months have had more and more often what appear to be stock clerks with plastic boxes on rolling carts seemingly checking (maybe changing?) item prices or something of the like? Often — not all the time, but fairly often — those workers expect you to stand and wait until they’re good and ready before moving out of the way to let you pick up the item you had to wait to be able to get to.

Is it because of the pandemic? Is it because of self absorption in cellphones that is seemingly making the simple art of conversation more and more obsolete?

I am not talking about everyone by any means. Just a couple of days ago I helped a young man use my car to jump off and get his car restarted at a local gas station, and he was very appreciative that I was willing to help him out. But in all honesty, I think he was also surprised I was willing to do so.

But whatever the reason, the complete lack of what used to be expected common courtesy is becoming more and more frequent at an alarming pace.

And that’s a sad realization for me.