Etiquette questions for South Florida in Hurricane Irma’s wake

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

Q — 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 discovered?

A — OK, here’s the deal. If gas stations allow law-of-the-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 I.Q. 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.


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?

A — 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.

150 feet away: Power cord to his refrigerator

100 feet away: Warm-water showers upon demand at your place

50 feet away: Sleeping privileges in your extra bedroom

Under his window: Conjugal visits


Q — 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?

A — 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”


Q — 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?

A — 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 trafficus interruptus, 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.

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