Lake Norman & Mooresville

Driving Miss JoAnn around town

When I moved to Mooresville from the Minneapolis, Minn., area, my sister, JoAnn Villanueva, who lives in Huntersville, gave me driving tips.

While riding with me in the car, she shouted, "People don't honk their horns at each other here in North Carolina, Suzanne!" as she saw my hand about to press on the horn.

"What do you mean, 'People don't honk their horns here?' " I asked, incredulously, trying to recollect if I had heard a single "beep-beep" since I arrived.

"What if the driver is acting like an idiot?" I asked, with my hand about to insult the idiot driving in front of me on Mooresville's congested River Highway.

"No. People don't honk their horns. It ain't Chicago," she said, referring to our hometown. "They're polite here." As opposed to drivers and the cacophony of horn blasts a person can hear in the Windy City.

"Polite? I'll tell you what's polite," I said indignantly as I pulled my hand back from blasting the horn. "Polite is using your turn signal.

"It's what we learned in high school: A horn and a turn signal are signals. And what is a signal, Miss JoAnn?" I asked in a deep voice, trying to sound like our drivers ed teachers back in high school.

We laughed. It's been a long time since we learned to drive. Man landed on the moon when JoAnn and I were in high school. All these years later, we are both blessed with good driving records.

We've both driven across the United States, in major cities during rush hour traffic on eight-lane interstates, on narrow two-lane highways shared with 18-wheelers and slow-moving farm tractors, up and down mountains, and even in sand alongside the ocean.

Both of us learned to drive from the high school coaches who also taught student drivers. The football coach taught Miss JoAnn to drive. My teacher was the wrestling coach, a retired Marine, who asked, "What is the definition of the word 'signal,' Miss?"

"A signal is a way to communicate, sir."

"Exactly," I went on in the teacher's voice. "Using your turn signal is communicating with your fellow drivers. Never apply your brakes before you turn on your turn signal. That's not polite. Signal - then they know you will be braking. That is communicating, and it's polite. Be a courteous driver, Miss."

JoAnn imitated her football coach/drivers ed teacher: "Never use your mirrors. Use your eyes, Miss JoAnn," meaning you need to turn you head and look around you and never trust your mirrors to tell you where other cars are.

JoAnn was quiet for a minute.

"Hey!" she exclaimed. "Why don't you write a story about how we are heading into spring storm season and remind everyone, 'When you turn on your windshield wipers, turn on your headlights. It's the law.'"

"And it's polite," we both shouted in deep voices.

She continued, "It really helps when people turn their lights on. I get so mad when I see a black or grey or any dark colored car without its lights on when it's raining. They are jeopardizing everyone, because we can't see them as well. Imagine the seniors on the road who can't see as well as they used to see. Imagine Dad!"

We shuddered. Our 88-year-old father still drives. He takes his driving test each year now, and the state keeps renewing his license. That could be another story in itself!

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