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While enjoying my lunch yesterday afternoon, I happened to look up and see a blue car tailgating a white pickup truck…which suddenly stopped.  The satisfying noise of crunching metal aside (provided no one is hurt), I wonder what we could do to prevent this in the future – from an etiquette point of view.

We already know tailgating is illegal, but is it impolite?

I suppose that’s going to depend entirely on who you’re tailgating.  Like so many things, personal space and, indeed, car lengths are cultural.  Speed matters, of course, and the space around you.  I mean – if you’re on a packed road and you’re going along at 30, then no – it’s not rude.  At that point it’s just traffic.

But if you’re driving on a city street, and the speed limit is 30, and the car in front of you is bigger than you…it’s not rude.  It’s stupid.

OK, it’s rude, too, but that’s beside the point.

I don’t know anyone who looks in the rear view mirror into the nose hair of the motorist immediately behind them and thinks “Oh, goodie!  I’ve got a mid-sized family runaround crawling into my trunk!  How relaxing!”  No, usually they start screaming and waving their hands around – if not contracting most of their fingers and waving that instead.

Anyone would think they were Italian.

So imagine you are at a dinner party.  No – a cocktail party / fundraiser thing.  Something not quite entirely social, but not a task one sits at a desk during, either.  What would you think if someone just walked up behind you, maybe 12 inches from you, and just walked directly behind you?  Would you think that was polite?

No, you wouldn’t, and while you may not start screaming and hand waving right away, it wouldn’t be long, would it?

No, it wouldn’t.

Mind you – like the traffic and cultural references above, there are exceptions.  Dramatic dancing would probably be one.  A conga line would be another.  But failing that, it would be pretty fucking bizarre at least, and definitely rude.

So I think we can fairly and safely say that yes, tailgating is categorically rude.

And if this is something you find yourself doing –

You need to quit.


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