The Gentlemen now offer a brief lesson in “Etiquette on the Motorways.” As is our custom, we suggest general principles with a pregnant example.
The scene: It is a pleasant late-summer Sunday, early in the evening. My gentleman partner and I, having just completed one of our regular Sunday afternoon engagements, are steering our motorcar up 1st Avenue towards the Queensboro Bridge . This is a favorite journey for the both of us. Traffic is typically light, so there is little to distract us from conversation.
“It is nearing sunset, friend,” says the Councilman.
“We’ll have a pleasant view from the bridge, methinks,” says me.
“How I do enjoy this time with you, friend.”
Our fellow travelers, be they in taxicabs, rickshaws, or sedans, appear to have left the troubles of the work week behind. Drivers signal politely and greet us with a smile, whether they are passing or being passed. Such a pleasant community of motorists I have not known, before or since. But little did we realize: there was a hoodlum in our midst! Suspense!
Our customary route over the bridge consists of a narrow, dangerous, one lane passage, barely wide enough for our gentleman van. The risks of said passage are apparent, and many an inattentive driver has found himself bathing in East River slime after the tiniest error in course. Dangerous, indeed! Perhaps, you say, we should have chosen another route? Perhaps. But, the gentlemen are fond of adventure.
We are not fond, however, of that reckless foolery so common among youths. And you can imagine our chagrin when, as we merged onto the narrowing passage, a grinning and greasy teen-person endeavored to overtake our vehicle with his. Though I attempted evasive maneuvers in our tight quarters, it seemed for a moment that our choices lay between a dreadful smash-up and a watery grave.
The Councilman, sensing our dilemma, voiced his opinion loudly, “Dreadful Smash-up! Dreadful Smash-up!” Not satisfied with our options, however, I narrowly delivered us from harm with a feat of vehicular dexterity not commonly seen. The Councilman cheered!
And his cheering grew louder when he saw what transpired next. Our thoughtless nemesis, upon overtaking us, sped not off into the distance. Rather, he found himself stuck behind a slow-traveling sedan with nary six inches on either side for him to pass. Impatiently he swerved to and fro. Sensing an opportunity, I guided our gentlevan close behind and in between peeks at the delightful skyline, The Councilman and I shot nasty glances toward the young man’s mirrors.
Several tense minutes later, the bridge landed us in our home borough and the passage way widened. Our antagonist quickly sped away. Attempts to catch him were quickly ruled out. The gentlevan, weighed down with instruments, gentlemen, and bottles of spirits, is not made for sport.
“We are beaten again,” I sighed.
“Not so!” declared The Councilman! “He is ours!”
Indeed! Fate had smiled upon The Gentlemen once again. Our foe sat parked before us at a traffic light. I sped the gentlevan ahead, pulled behind the offender, placed the van in park, re-applied my necktie, straightened my trousers, tuned my banjo, and leapt from the car to confront the scoundrel. The Coucilman remained behind to protect against any flanking maneuvers.
To his credit, the young man did not shirk from my offensive. He awaited me with a sneer and as I approached the vehicle’s passenger side, lowered the window for our conversation. It was a shrewd maneuver. For on said passenger side sat not he (for he, being the driver was positioned on the driver’s side) but a greasy, juvenile lady-person. Shrewd, indeed! For whether knowingly our not, the scoundrel had castrated my attack. And with mine own scalpel!
As quickly as I had conjured them, the myriad insults I’d prepared for the encounter evaporated into the steamy air. All contained language and imagery unsuitable for a lady, no matter how greasy or undiscerning in her choice of company that lady might be. Alas, I was handcuffed by my own strict sense of propriety.
Recovering from the strategic blow, I quickly composed a short, well-mannered talk on etiquette, automobile safety, and the relationship ‘twixt the two. I delivered it flawlessly, but my juvenile friend had little time for reason. In response to each of my points, he offered only his outstretched middle digit. Having said my piece, I bid him good day, tipped my hat to the lady, and returned to the Gentlevan.
“Our flank is secure!” declared the Councilman.
Our adversary, however, was not done. He reversed his automobile, pulling his car adjacent to us. And as we looked on in horror, this young man mimed, with hand and mouth, a particular act of vulgarity frequently performed on men by their lovers. While we digested his performance, the light turned green and the young man and his silent companion sped off.
My partner and I remained parked at the light, stunned. Undistracted by the blaring horns and swearing drivers behind us, we contemplated the possible meanings of the young man’s mimicry. Two interpretations presented themselves. On one hand, the gesture may have been a mocking one. Perhaps, the hooligan believed us to be well-dressed man-lovers in search of a suitable location to perform vulgar acts upon each other. On the other hand, the gesture may have been one of tribute and admiration. Perhaps, feeling himself seduced by our gentlemanly charm, wit, and appearance, the smitten fellow felt tempted to perform said pleasurable indecencies upon one (or both!) of us.
Though the former interpretation seemed more likely, the mere idea of it made both The Councilman and I rather queasy. So, we agreed to settle on the latter option which, though also unpleasant, conformed to our long-held view that even the most brutish of brutes eventually finds our gentlemanly aspects irresistible. Indeed, we counted ourselves victorious again!
Satisfied with our conclusion, The Councilman removed his flask from his jacket pocket and we took turns sipping from it and toasting each other’s bravery, intellect, appearance, and good manners. Drivers behind us grew impatient and began to swerve around our unmoving motorcar. Some mouthed greetings, others waved cheerfully, and still others mimed vulgar acts with their hands and mouths. The Councilman and I toasted them, too, sympathetic to their urges.
With warmest personal regards, I am,