By on November 8, 2021

David Tadevosian/Shutterstock.com

Most of the time I am a genial fellow. Laidback. Not particularly quick to anger. Polite towards my fellow man.

Except, on occasion, when behind the wheel.

I’m not saying I’m in a constant state of road rage. Far from it. But sometimes someone pulls a stupid maneuver that directly negatively impacts me — or at least, I think negatively impacts me — and I use a certain gesture to let the other driver be aware of my disapproval.

I am, after all, a Chicagoan.

The most recent deployment of the finger between my ring and index digits took place last week. The details of this particular incident don’t really matter — I will just say, for the sake of brevity, that I was honked at and cut off by a driver more impatient than I, just three blocks from home after a slog back from O’Hare, and I wasn’t in the mood to let it slide with a wave and a smile.

Still, almost every time I deploy the old one-fingered salute — or, on rare occasions, the double-barreled version — I wonder if I am being too quick to the trigger.

So, I ask of you, B and B — at one point to you visually express yourself when another driver has wronged you — or at least when you perceive it as such?

[Image: David Tadevosian/Shutterstock.com]

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66 Comments on “QOTD: When Do You Flip the Bird?...”


  • avatar
    thegamper

    I almost never flip the bird. I am much more likely to give the A OK signal instead of the bird to other motorists to congratulate them on their smooth moves and driving skills following their complete lapse in judgement, situational awareness, etc. Usually people know they messed up, no need to rub it in, especially if you already honked at them.

    On a side note, I have seen an alarming trend of people doing stupid things and then flipping ME the bird for honking at them. Like a guy who is playing on his phone at a traffic light, a short honk to wake them up somehow results in ME getting flipped off. Someone cuts me off, I honk, then get the bird from the offending driver for not appreciating their inconsiderate and/or dangerous maneuver?

    I guess in the “no responsibility, I will do whatever I want because I am the only person that matters” society we live in, I should expect nothing less.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Making an “A OK symbol”? Better be careful there.
      https://www.npr.org/2019/09/26/764728163/the-ok-hand-gesture-is-now-listed-as-a-symbol-of-hate

      I mean, really, even a friendly nod might be interpreted as male aggression, depending on the giver and the receiver.

      Probably safest to just act invisible, and pretend the other driver was invisible too.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Thanks for the info, I had no idea. I will have to adjust my behavior in certain contexts. I will add that to the many things that someone will find insulting these days. Not the sort of insult I was going for.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        But, now we also have “silence is violence.” That means that not reacting at all might be labeled as “hate.”

        I don’t flip anyone the bird anymore. If someone behind me really pisses me off (usually by tailgating) I just start slowing down very, very gradually — that way most likely they just think I’m not paying attention.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      “Usually people know they messed up, no need to rub it in, especially if you already honked at them.”

      I find exactly the opposite.They’ll think nothing of it and attempt the same maneuver a few miles down the road if the opportunity presents itself. The only likely deterrence would be if they *almost* pile into a car whilst attempting said maneuver or actually cause one.

      That being said, flipping the bird is self-gratification, it isn’t any more likely to deter the driver from doing it again than the “A-OK” signal.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        @blppt,

        If the objective is to train the other driver, you need to put your vehicle in their space.

        Very illegal (just like the obscene gestures advocated above by Tim Healey), dangerous and ill-advised – but way more effective.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          Are you suggesting you should run them off the road? Not sure what “you should put your vehicle in their space” means.

          Someone tried that on me a few years ago. A good driving record, great insurance, and money for repairs means I ain’t movin. My dash cam means you need a lawyer. Everyone should have a dash cam…..everyone!

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            You can definitely get ‘in my space’ without making contact. For example, the Interstate lane is roughly 12 feet wide; the vehicle is more like 7 feet wide; that’s a lot of latitude and room to work with.

            If you want to step it up and take one for the team (and get the worst drivers off the road for awhile), the PIT Maneuver is exactly what some drivers are begging for (on some days). On my last road trip I was carefully evaluating this possibility for one fellow traveler but the road conditions weren’t exactly ideal (and they would have to be exactly ideal). Even in ‘perfect’ conditions, the ultimate results would be fairly unpredictable (much like flipping the bird).

            I’m not “suggesting” or advocating any of these behaviors. (Tim Healey is the professional journalist promoting illegal behavior on the road.)

            [Today I used coil spring compressors with one of the locking pins pulled. Relatively dumb, potentially dangerous, but not illegal (in my case). It was a calculated risk. Just because I didn’t get hurt this time doesn’t make it a good idea.]

          • 0 avatar
            blppt

            Are personal dash cams usable in court? I’m not up on law.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      “I guess in the “no responsibility, I will do whatever I want because I am the only person that matters” society we live in, I should expect nothing less.”

      Pretty much sums it up.

    • 0 avatar

      probably the only time I’ll honk, save a blind spot merge attempt…light goes green….eyes down…texting…HONK.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    The right answer is never. Remember you forget about all driving incidents the next day or week, unless it ends up in an accident or even worse violence. Not worth it.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Having learned how to drive in the greater Philadelphia area, and make frequent trips back to visit family, flipping the bird is an art form there. I think they’ve added a special “The Art of Rude Gestures” to the driver’s manual that each 16 year old must read and gets quizzed on while taking the test. So, having said that, and given that MANY MANY MANY Kentucky drivers would be clobbered, scared, terrified, and just overall clueless on how to actually drive in the I-95 corridor, the finger gets deployed on a regular basis.

    Take yesterday. It’s 240 miles from South Bend (BEAT NAVY!) to home. The finger had to be deployed twice. Both times, it was a clueless driver who didn’t know how to use mirrors. The first time I had to jam on the brakes HARD on US-31 to avoid a crash and the second on I-65 was someone who forced me into the shoulder because they weren’t paying attention. There are areas of Philly where you pull that crap, that person just might follow you for a while, raging, and things can escalate quickly.

    But when the Kentucky road test consists of parking, a stop sign, and a three point turn (total), there’s going to be scenes from Mad Max on the roads.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      ” There are areas of Philly where you pull that crap, that person just might….”

      There was the case in Chester County. A young female was driving like crazy. A driver blocked her. She flipped the bird, he shot her in the head. 2 years back, may be.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      this one

      https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/police-flooded-with-tips-on-road-rage-killing-of-bianca-roberson-18-20170701.html

      I happen to know because this chick was a classmate of my friend’s daughter

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @flyersfan:

      Yep. Used to live in Reading, and spent quite a bit of time in Philly getting honked at. But I never saw anything truly aggressive aside from that. I think the horn is the official East Coast method of taking out your aggression on people. New York is even worse.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        If you aren’t on the gas within 5 milliseconds of that light turning green in Manhattan, you’re going to get blasted with a horn. Guaranteed. I think the gas pedal is hardwired to the horn so it blasts at all speeds under 10 mph.

        During my travels, I have to say the Italian drivers are the greatest when it comes to driving with no hands on the wheel. Lots of gestures, very animated behind the wheel. To this day, I’ll never forget the cab driver from the airport to the hotel in the center of Rome blasting down the highway, no hands on the wheel, and I’m saying every prayer I know in the hopes that being near the Vatican would buy me a little extra life in case this cabbie wipes us out.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Go Irish!

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        @Tim Healey – I try to get to at least one game a year. Lots of family ties to ND. Yeah, it was just Navy (and I feel bad for them because the week before they had Cincinnati – that’s two brutal games in a row) but it was military day at the stadium and a lot of vets and active military there.

        There’s something special about that place – the helmets are far more gold in person, the grass is greener, the crowd is electric, the student section is drunk out of their skulls, and when the players come busting out to the fight song, it’s electric.

        But the two lane roads around ND are not built for game day traffic!

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      I bet them boys that drive coal trucks in eastern Kentucky would do fine in Philly. Because they are nuts.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I ask them, do you have a gun? if the answer is “no”, only then

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      On the other side of the coin, I do carry a gun and that is why I don’t flip the bird. I do not want to provoke an incident where I would have to use it. I believe keeping your emotions in check is essential when carrying; if you can’t, you should not be armed, ever.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Never anymore. Sometimes a honk of the horn, or hitting the flash-to-pass, and I’ve even cut down on those. These days, you never know when hot lead is going to start flying in your direction.

    They might as well stop including turn signals on cars, since most people don’t seem to use them.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I don’t flip the bird…you just don’t know who might have a meltdown and pull their Keltec out of the glove compartment…it is just not worth it…

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Same here – I just ignore them and move on with my life. I don’t even honk unless the light went green and they didn’t move or I am otherwise trying to get their attention for some reason.

      Too many Karens/Kens(?) out there these days. For example: a co-worker of my wife had a gun stuck in her face last week while picking up their kid from the school bus stop. Another parent pulled up very quickly and slammed on their brakes as if this was a NASCAR pit stop. A few concerned parents told him to be careful since many small children were wondering around. Well they got the business end of a 9mm for expressing their concern. The police got involved as there were multiple witness who identified the vehicle in question, but I haven’t heard the final outcome.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Good Lord, people are pulling guns on each other in a school dropoff line?

        Two words: jail time. Seriously…

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        I would say that goes beyond garden variety “Karen / Ken” entitlement. That’s a sociopath who will go on to make the evening news one night, unless we are all very lucky / blessed.

        I hope that person gets their firearm taken away, and possibly their car as well, and possibly jail time. I don’t know what the chances are.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Never. Horn, very rarely.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I flip people off all the time…and unless it’s a really egregious issue, it’s under the dashboard where they can’t see me. That way, I get it off my chest and there’s no incident. Road rage really isn’t all that much fun.

    Re: Tim’s comments: for my money, Chicago may well be the road-ragiest place in America. I once witnessed an ancient road boat negotiating his way out of a tight parking spot on the Loop by bashing the cars in front of him and in back of him. Favorite incident, though: getting tailgated by the angriest-looking old bat in the world in Skokie…in a CEMETERY.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      @FreedMike – I will see your Chicago and raise a Boston. There isn’t much that scares me behind the wheel, but when I hear “You have to go through Boston,” and drive with what has to be the greatest collection of lunatic fringe drivers ever assembled on God’s green Earth, I’ll go out of my way to avoid that place. The city is all one-way, it was laid out for cattle not cars, there is nowhere to park that doesn’t involve taking out a loan, and the drivers all drive like they just sucked down a 64oz Red Bull into a 12oz bladder and they need to use the bathroom right now.

      But I can at least remind the fine folks of the greater Boston area who beat them in the Super Bowl a few years back…

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        True, Boston’s horrible. I went there on my honeymoon back in 1993, and made the mistake of renting a car. Bad idea. But once you’re out of the city of Boston, it’s pretty much like driving in any other suburb. Chicago is bad EVERYWHERE you go.

        I also have a lot more “history” with Chicago; besides, being from St. Louis, I love to trash that place every chance I get. Don’t get me started on Cubs fans.

        • 0 avatar
          theflyersfan

          @FreedMike – Are they those same Cubs fans that turn Cincinnati into Wrigley South, take over all of Downtown, and make Yankees fans look and act like the highest level of civil society? Yeah, I think we both agree about Cubs fans. Maybe if Reds fans (all 10 of them remaining) actually purchased tickets, there would be fewer to go to the fine folks of the greater Chicago area.

          Chicago has the curse of never ending construction. Winters tear the roads to shreds, and it’s a losing battle. How long has 294 been torn up… They need to do what I’ve seen throughout the Midwest – open bed truck full of blacktop, the truck moves slowly, and the guys in back throw the substance into said pothole. Maybe they get it in the hole, or maybe it lands on your front bumper. It makes commuting interesting.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @flyersfan:

            Courtesy of the Reds, I give you…the Cubs Bandwagon Cam. I salute the Reds for some absolute first class trolling here.
            youtube.com/watch?v=p8k0lBFm89s

            They were always…ahem…interesting, then after the Cubs got good, they got insufferable. Then being a Cubs fan became a “hipster thing.” I was on the train coming home on the same night as a Rockies/Cubs game, and saw some 22-year-old noob in a sparkling new Cubs jersey who’d been vaping before he boarded the train. Asked him who the greatest Cub ever was.

            “Kyle Schwarber”

            Speaks for itself.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      “it’s under the dashboard where they can’t see me”

      Same here.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    NEVER!

    1) It really accomplishes nothing; much better to learn how to take things in stride when out driving, otherwise it’s you that ends up in a bad mood for the day (the person who pissed you off will have forgotten the incident within five minutes)! ALL of us have done something dumb behind the wheel at some point or another, so just be the “bigger person”, live and let live, and let the situation de-escalate without added drama. The driver who knows he screwed up won’t be further “helped” by the hostile gesture, and the clueless driver probably won’t care to modify their behavior in response to your one-finger rebuke.

    2) It may well prove to be the final “straw” that triggers the other driver to twist off and do something impulsive that has tragic consequences.

    3) It only adds to the morass of hostility and conflict that is currently overtaking our civilization.

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    I literally only use it when I’m a pedestrian or on a motorcycle and the following conditions are met:

    1. I was almost seriously injured due to a driver’s negligence.
    2. I am absolutely positive they will see my hand.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Not anymore, people are just too effing psychotic.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    With the number of people waving around cheap “Saturday night specials” these days, it’s not worth it. I still do it from time to time, usually in the scenario where I’m waiting for a pedestrian to cross at a crosswalk and someone passes me on the wrong side of the road (which happens distressingly often in Seattle). It’s one thing when drivers don’t care if they crash into other cars, but insouciance about pedestrians’ lives makes me really upset.

  • avatar
    Kyree

    I’m actually pretty understanding toward oblivious driving–and I don’t mean “oblivious because you were on your phone,” but truly accidental, lapse-in-judgment driving. It can be dangerous to be unaware, but the unfortunate truth is that it happens.

    I am less generous toward deliberately aggressive driving. If someone tailgates me because they don’t like the fact that I’m passing slower than they would be and thereby impeding their ability to hit triple digits on a busy freeway in a lifted F-250 Super Duty…they’re probably going to get the bird. I really shouldn’t do it, but it always gets my blood boiling.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Never, the horn only if I want to get their attention because of a dangerous situation. I’ll usually just do a thumbs-up in a sarcastic, “good one, d**khead”

    If it’s a woman I don’t do anything because they’re too busy doing whatever to even look at me

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I only flip off my work computer, but I do that regularly as the password is long and complex and east to mistype. After two or three unsuccessful logins I like to think the finger makes the fourth connection work.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    If you flip people off behind the wheel as often as Tim Healey does, you probably have a weak ego (like Tim Healey does) and you probably aren’t a very good driver (like Tim Healey isn’t).

    Flipping someone off accomplishes nothing (ok, nothing positive). It’s too late to affect the physics of what has transpired, and it isn’t an effective ‘training aid’ – the truly clueless won’t notice, and the partially clued-in might just be inspired to pass on the negativity in the next situation and cause even more of a problem.

    The foregoing paragraph applies even if you live in a pit of despair like Chicago and are constantly surrounded by aggressive angry drivers.

    Where I usually drive, the correct answer to “When Do You Flip the Bird” would be “Right After I Have Lost the Will to Live” – which isn’t yet.

    General Driving Advice: Work out your personal issues before getting behind the wheel. You have NO IDEA what other drivers on the road might be going through. The mom driving her kid to outpatient surgery might have other things on her mind besides you. Same thing with the guy who left work early because he got the call that Dad just passed away in the hospital.

    It Ain’t All About You (even if your name is Tim Healey).

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      There’s some useful advice in your post … but why are you “flipping the bird” at TH? Ad hominem attacks can get old quickly. (How do you know so much about him, anyway?)

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Criticizing Tim’s behavior directly (as reported by him) doesn’t strike me as the classic “Ad Hominem” attack. If you seem me making an ad hominem argument in these pages, please call me on it (I don’t think you’ll find many instances).

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem#/media/
        File:Graham’s_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement.svg

        [How far do your questions to me rise up Graham’s hierarchy?]

        If you don’t like the *tone* of my post, it was carefully calculated to get Tim’s attention (not an easy thing to do), and to get other people who behave like him on the road to think about their behavior on the road (also not easy to do).

        There are lots of things I could’ve said but didn’t. Let’s just say that promoting illegal behavior on the roads isn’t exactly Responsible Journalism.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_rage

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          Well, who says I accept Graham’s hierarchy as the arbiter of such things?

          My post was intended as constructive criticism of yours, take it how you will.

          Also, I am not sure that this article / blog post (blarticle?) can be construed as promoting illegal behavior. It’s not really clear to me that such a gesture is illegal.
          https://www.npr.org/2019/03/15/703665710/police-officer-cant-pull-over-driver-for-giving-him-the-finger-court-rules

          I would tend to think that whatever driving behavior prompted the gesture is the more illegal and more dangerous behavior. However, that being said, bad drivers may also use poor judgment in other ways, and do something really dangerous. So it’s better not to take the chance of escalating it. (That’s the “useful advice” I was referring to.)

          Some distant in-laws lost their father due to a road rage incident. To make matters worse, he was the aggressor. There are real dangers out there.

  • avatar
    BigKoppa

    Every time I pass somebody on the right, so like five times a day.

    That being said, they get it in my side mirror after I’ve passed them. I doubt that they see it, but I feel a little better about it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m too rich and handsome to have road rage.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m more likely to *expletive deleted* about an idiotic move in my car and then get out of Dodge at the soonest moment. Case in point, this morning I was stuck behind somebody who refused to get up to freeway speed. As soon as I had a chance, I gunned it past because I didn’t feel like being stuck behind somebody who is oblivious.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    A colleague was mad at the Christian elementary school her kids and mine attended. Her youngest son got disciplined for “flipping the bird” in class. I pointed out that you’d expect that with a Christian school. I asked her point blank, “Where do ya think he learned that?” She turned beet red. That morning on the way to school she “fingered” a guy for driving too slow.

    Karma at it’s finest.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I have a handy flow chart for this. If I can, in my estimation, kick your ass then I’m not letting you upset me. And if I can’t then I’m not giving you a reason to kick mine.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Only if I have clear running room ahead to put distance between myself and the idiot in question! (Well, the oblivious ones..mostly clueless semi drivers or others who would never commit as egregious and unforgivable a sin as EXCEEDING SOME (underposted) RANDOM NUMBER ON A SIGN, so probably accelerating beyond 50mph to get around them as they attempt to enter the freeway is OK!)

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I own enough horsepower to forgo giving the middle finger to most: a downshift; a dab of oppo; and I’m out in front of the dalliance that might have otherwise perturbed me on my commute.

  • avatar
    Boff

    To be completely frank, I only flip the bird when I’M in the wrong. Which isn’t all that often.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Here’s a guy who flipped the Bird:

    https://www.airforcemag.com/thunderbirds-f-16d-flips-on-the-ground-in-ohio-passengers-safe/

  • avatar

    Never ever on a public road. For left lane bandits, I’ll do the left turn signal, maybe a brief flash to pass. I don’t want to antagonize or see you…woad wage is a pointless scenario. I know your cell phone and the drama it is passing to you is more important than the two ton box moving at 70 mph….and don’t need to break your glaze….I’ll just get a hole, hit the gas, and go. There’s a reason I don’t own any slow cars.

    I did flip off a guy who squeezed me out of a corner line at NHMS though, so there’s that…

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