By Patrick W. Andersen
Greg, sitting in the back seat, was in a better position to see oncoming traffic.
“You can back out now, Dad. A car has stopped and left room for you.”
“Now that’s the kind of courtesy I appreciate,” Mr. Carlisle beamed. “You know, when I was your age, neighbors were more—well, neighborly. People watched out for each other. Boys helped old ladies cross the street, young men held doors open for women and girls. Everyone was, ‘Yes, sir,’ or, ‘Yes, Ma’am.’ The boys who worked at gas stations not only filled your tank for you, but they also checked your oil, tested the air pressure in all four of your tires, and washed and polished all your windows.”
“But nowadays everything has changed. They eliminated the part-time attendant jobs the boys in the neighborhood used to work. You could either pump your own gas or you could go without. Even church ladies had to check their own oil! And polishing the windows—well, everybody learned those neighborhood boys had a talent that the rest of us could never match.”
“And it got so people got upset if you called them Sir or Ma’am. I offered my seat to a young lady on the bus and she almost snapped my head off!”
“And when we were driving in traffic, courtesy was the rule, not the exception. People acted more like people in those days, not the ruthless robots you see behind the wheel these days.”
“So I’ll just pull out—“
“No—stop, Dad! We’ll get hit.”
Mr. Carlisle looked over his shoulder at Greg in the back seat. “I thought you said the driver was making room for us.”
“He was, Dad. But the traffic signal changed a couple minutes ago while you were talking and he moved on. There’s a whole new wave of cars coming now.”
“Is there a break in the traffic coming anytime soon?”
“Not that I can see, Dad.”
Mr. Carlisle moved the gearshift knob to Park and got out. He stepped far enough out to see the stream of vehicles coming down the street. He tried signaling to show he needed to back out, but none slowed down. Even when the traffic light down the street turned red, the cars completely filled the lane behind his driveway.
Greg heard him shout, “Hey, a little courtesy, you assholes!” He saw his father shaking his fist at the line of cars as the signal changed and they started moving again.
Mr. Carlisle got back in. “Okay, I’ve got a plan. You go jump in front of the traffic. Stand far enough back to give me room to back out. Then you can jump into the car and we’ll take off.”
The boy climbed out. Moments later, Mr. Carlisle heard screeching tires and then a loud thump. He shifted into Reverse and took his foot off the brake.