AS I WAS driving down the road last week, I noticed flashing blue lights and a caravan of cars heading toward me in oncoming traffic.
A funeral procession.
The driver of the car in front of me flipped on the blinker and pulled off to the side of the road. I did the same.
Because we were driving on a four-lane road, motorists who didn’t want to stop passed us by and kept on going about their business.
It’s an old tradition, that momentary show of sympathy for a family you likely don’t know and will never meet, but you know they are people who must be suffering at that time.
It’s a show of respect for someone who will never again meet a stranger or a friend.
It is an old Southern tradition — at least I thought so, although I’ve since heard of it happening in other parts of the country, as well — but it’s one that seems to be going by the wayside.
I watched as the cars sped past, one after the next, with drivers in a hurry to get on with their lives
When I see that solemn procession, my throat feels tight. When I hear a siren or hear the report of a wreck come across the police scanner here at the paper, I have the same reaction, that sudden sense of impending doom for someone out there.
(After all these years of hearing the police scanner, I want to know what kinds of vehicles were involved. Could it have been someone I know and love?)
So, it’s not you or your family and you are thankful.
You are sympathetic.
Or, you zoom past, in a hurry, “invincible” in a sense.
I’ve read that in years past, people would get out of their cars and stand in silence as a funeral procession passed.
Granted, the roads are a lot busier than they used to be, so that’s probably not the wisest course of action these days, but I’ve read complaints that even having cars pull off the roadway as a funeral procession passes by is a hazard. Some people suggest that it is safer to merely slow down, rather than actually stop, although I can’t see how a slowly moving car would be less of a threat than a parked car to those whizzing past at the speed limit or above.
Some states have laws pertaining not only to the actual funeral procession itself, which is required to follow the rules of road, but also to how other motorists should proceed.
For example, in Tennessee, drivers say the law requires motorists in oncoming lanes to continue moving.
In Massachusetts, drivers report it is against the law not to pull over.
There goes that strictly Southern angle.
So, some people don’t pull over.
Or slow down.
But some even go so far as to pass members of the funeral procession, winding their way in and out of the line of cars driven by mourners.
In Georgia, that’s against the law.
Everywhere, it’s common decency going by the wayside.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald.