Eti­quette ques­tions for South Florida in Irma’s wake

The Palm Beach Post - - HURRICANE IRMA - Frank Cer­abino

Ask Mr. Hur­ri­cane Man­ners, South Florida’s fore­most storm eti­quette ad­vice columnist:

I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced an eth­i­cal dilemma in the lines for gaso­line be­fore and af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma. Some sta­tions leave only one en­trance open, mak­ing all traf­fic to the pumps come from a sin­gle di­rec­tion.

This makes so much sense. And the ones that are re­ally on the ball — like Costco and Wawa — have em­ploy­ees in vests stand­ing at the front of the line, di­rect­ing the wait­ing traf­fic to open pumps.

My dilemma comes from go­ing to the other kinds of sta­tions, the ma­jor­ity of them that al­low chaos to rule. There are mul­ti­ple en­trances and no su­per­vi­sion.

I’ve dis­cov­ered that what usu­ally hap­pens is there’s a main line, the one that most driv­ers see, and then get in, even if it’s a half-block away. But there’s a sec­ond not-as-ob­vi­ous en­trance to the sta­tion around the cor­ner. And there’s nearly no line for those who find that en­trance.

My ques­tion is, as a car­ing hu­man be­ing, should I get in the long line and wait pa­tiently be­hind those who were there be­fore me, or is it OK for me to go around the block and get gas from the much shorter line that the peo­ple in front of me haven’t



OK, here’s the deal. If gas sta­tions al­low law-ofthe-jun­gle rules, you need to de­cide whether you are a chee­tah or a wilde­beest.

Don’t beat your­self up over this. Not ev­ery­body picks the right line to get in at the gro­cery store. But if they paid more at­ten­tion, they would.

By find­ing the sec­ond en­trance, you are in­creas­ing the IQ of the line, which may cause other less-alert driv­ers to fol­low you.

This will put more cars in the sec­ond line, mak­ing the first line shorter and bring­ing the sec­ond line near par­ity with the first. And that might screw up the traf­fic flow to the level where em­ploy­ees re­al­ize there should only be one way into the sta­tions. So they put up cones to block the sec­ond en­trance.

Think of it this way, by ex­ploit­ing the chaos, jerks like you are do­ing a pub­lic ser­vice by help­ing to cre­ate a more or­derly world.

A: Q:

I have a gen­er­a­tor but my neigh­bor doesn’t. I would like to have this noisy con­trap­tion as far from my bed­room as pos­si­ble. But that makes it closer to my neigh­bor’s bed­room.

What’s the eti­quette here?

Gen­er­a­tors are a bless­ing and a curse.

The de­vice that is giv­ing you com­fort un­til power is re­stored is tak­ing away com­fort from your neigh­bor, who gets none of the ben­e­fits but plenty of the noise.

The eth­i­cal thing to do would be to of­fer him some­thing in re­turn.

And what you of­fer should be com­men­su­rate with the prox­im­ity of the gen­er­a­tor


to his bed­room.

Power cord to his re­frig­er­a­tor.

Warm-wa­ter show­ers upon de­mand at your place.

Sleep­ing priv­i­leges in your ex­tra bed­room.




I no­ticed that as the hur­ri­cane ap­proached, the high­way signs on I-95 dis­played the mes­sage, “Tolls sus­pended by or­der of gover­nor.”

Aren’t turn­pike tolls al­ways sus­pended for ev­ery hur­ri­cane? Am I be­ing picky by think­ing that the words “by or­der of gover­nor” were com­pletely un­nec­es­sary here?

You’re cor­rect. Gov. Rick Scott didn’t just wake up one day last week and say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea,


why don’t we sus­pend tolls while or­der­ing an evac­u­a­tion for the hur­ri­cane.”

And his aide didn’t slap his head, and re­spond: “What a great idea, gover­nor! You’re a benev­o­lent ge­nius. Why didn’t any­body else ever think of that?”

No, this was just a boil­er­plate storm prepa­ra­tion that has been part of ev­ery storm re­sponse. It’s not a re­flec­tion of Scott’s gen­eros­ity, in­ge­nu­ity or novel lead­er­ship.

But it is tacky, con­sid­er­ing that Scott plans to run for U.S. Se­nate when his term ends next year. By in­sert­ing him­self un­nec­es­sar­ily on the evac­u­a­tion no­tice, he is us­ing the state high­way signs as un­paid ad­ver­tis­ing.

Be­ing that this can’t be un­done, Mr. Hur­ri­cane Man­ners thinks proper eti­quette calls for al­low­ing his op­po­nent in that fu­ture Se­nate race to be af­forded four-day ac­cess to the state high­way signs to run an­other mes­sage about the gover­nor.

For ex­am­ple, it could be a mes­sage that high­light’s Scott real hands-on role in turn­ing down the no-cost ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid un­der Oba­macare. The sign could read:

“Health care sus­pended for 800,000 Florid­i­ans by or­der of gover­nor”


When driv­ing through busy four-way in­ter­sec­tions with no traf­fic lights work­ing, I’ve found my­self on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions be­hind driv­ers who won’t go when it’s their turn.

What is the cor­rect re­sponse? Should I honk, or just wait pa­tiently for that driver to go?

Well, it de­pends. There are two ex­pla­na­tions why


those driv­ers you de­scribe aren’t go­ing when it’s their turn:

(a) They could be tex­ting. (b) They could be from the Mid­west.

If you see the driver look­ing down, not out his or her wind­shield, it’s prob­a­bly a tex­ter.

In that case, Mr. Hur­ri­cane Man­ners rec­om­mends a friendly toot on the horn, fol­lowed three sec­onds later, by a less friendly pro­longed blast on the horn, fol­lowed three sec­onds later by as­sorted hand ges­tures. That should work.

On the other hand, if the driver in front of you seems to be in­tently look­ing at the traf­fic in the in­ter­sec­tion, but never think­ing it’s his or her turn to go, you’ve prob­a­bly driven be­hind a Mid­west­erner.


Do not beep the horn. It won’t help. They never think it’s their turn. And beep­ing will only star­tle them, and cause them — in or­der to be po­lite to you — to lurch into the in­ter­sec­tion.

But their timid­ity will re­assert it­self be­fore mak­ing it through the in­ter­sec­tion. So they’ll stop in the mid­dle.

And now you’ve got a sit­u­a­tion of

with horns blast­ing on ev­ery cor­ner of the in­ter­sec­tion.

So don’t beep. Go around them, if pos­si­ble. If not, try to be pa­tient and wait for them to work up the nerve.

And when you fi­nally go, don’t fol­low them to the back of a gas line, be­cause they’re prob­a­bly headed for the long­est one.


Karl Bar­tos, 72, cools off by his fan and gen­er­a­tor at his home in un­in­cor­po­rated West Palm Beach on Tues­day. Gen­er­a­tors are a bless­ing for those who have them, but can be a curse for nearby neigh­bors who don’t.

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