Today I left my office around 12:30 to run out quickly and drop something off at my older kids’ school, plus grab a fast sandwich for lunch.
As I headed down Sutherland Avenue in the Bearden area of Knoxville, I saw a hearse slowly leading a funeral procession of other cars – all with white flags, and all with their headlights turned on – coming up the street toward me from the opposite direction.
Without giving it a second thought, I immediately signaled and pulled to the side of the street, stopping my car as a sign of respect, and intending to remain in place until the somber parade had completely passed by.
It never occurred to me that anyone else would do otherwise. This was a city street – not the interstate – and only moderately busy at midday. Nobody was put at safety risk by cars pulling to the side of the street temporarily. Plus, this is just what people do, or so I thought.
However, while one or two other drivers in the block just ahead of me also pulled over as the mourners rolled past, many other cars aggressively sped around those of us who were stopped, trying to get past. Several drivers even glared angrily at me as they swerved by.
And worst of all, the cars behind my own STARTED HONKING AT ME TO GET OUT OF THE WAY. I couldn’t believe if.
This was all happening while the slow line of grieving family
and friends following the hearse attempted to remain together at the same measured pace while traveling up the street in the opposite direction.
To my utter shock, some of the cars swerving to get around me and the few other stopped cars on my side of the street actually forced the funeral cars to pull to their side, and to stop momentarily to get out of the way! My mouth was literally hanging open at this point.
And the honking from behind had me so rattled by that point that I was just about to cave in and start moving again – despite how much I didn’t want to do that – when the last car in the funeral procession went past. So I started back on my way, really shaken by how some other drivers – at least 15 of them – had behaved during the brief time I was stopped to show respect for this dead person and his or her family.
So am I just an old fashioned outlier on this tradition? Does no one stop for funeral processions anymore? Is it possible that this custom is so out of fashion that other drivers actually didn’t realize why those few other cars ahead of me – plus mine – were stopped on the side of Sutherland at midday?
And what about you? Do you pull over or no? Why or why not?
Whatever other people are doing, I will continue to pull my car over whenever possible anytime I encounter a funeral procession. I consider it simple good manners.
UPDATE: in reading y’all’s comments, I am being educated that this custom is a regional one, which I truly did not realize. So if you are from a part of the country where no one pulls over, my apologies for unintentionally insulting your own customary manners, which are certainly exemplary, even if you are a yank 😉
Having said that, there’s a big difference between simply not stopping as opposed to honking or forcing mourners to pull over. The former may be a (fading) regional custom, but the latter behaviors are just rude, no matter what zip code you live in.
My 2 cents …