My Driving Sins: Three Irksome Habits
If there’s anything that tweaks the inner beast in me, it’s the questionable and downright dumb behavior of my fellow drivers.
Though I’ve gotta say — seriously — I think I’ve tempered my reactions the older I’ve gotten.
Like a fine wine, I believe I’ve mellowed. I don’t keep quite the case of conniptions I used to.
Although, like a bottle that has turned, I can still get a little sour. Just not as explosive or vinegar-infused as I used to be.
I have not, for instance, at least in recent memory, worn out the horn of my car. That last happened, oh, about 14 years ago. (Though, at the time, it was the third car on which I’d committed such an outrage.)
It has been a good 16 years since another driver has exited their vehicle looking to do me, or at least my driver’s side window, some earnest harm.
And though I have never been a bird-shooter, or a tailgater, I have long ago given up the original — and completely insane — maneuver by which, once I finally overtook a car puttering along in the passing lane, I would slow to an even more tortoise-like pace and, occasionally — you know, for kicks — jam my brakes on while jerking my head to the side flamboyantly, I guess, to cause them similar misery and, yeah, thus prove how much of an insane dumbass I can be.
Generally, I’ve got enough daily commute miles behind me that I grit my teeth and grind it out and save myself for the next journey from home to daycare to work, and the next, and the next, and the next.
But there are still a few passive-aggressive reactions I’ll cop to that don’t exactly endear me to those with whom I share the road.
Though their reactions — shooting the bird, cruising up alongside, chasing me for blocks — don’t exactly speak highly of them. And seem far out of proportion.
Still: I hereby confess….
What, Are We In a Parade?
This recent traffic tic came about shortly after we moved from Chicago to Sioux Falls, SD.
Though I no longer have my 2-hour or so commute to contend with, and though most trips across town take 10 to 15 minutes, tops, my delight at small town traffic patterns quickly evaporated as I began to notice the parade phenomenon.
You know. You enjoy a block or two of open road in front of you before coming, inexplicably, to an endless train of drivers backed all the way up and for heaven knows what reason.
It’s only mildly less annoying when you discover they’re all in the same lane with a wide open lane next to them because, what the what, and why the Hellman’s mayonnaise? In those cases, you cackle, knowingly, shake your head, go around them, and literally move on.
But more often than not the centipede of the barely sentient is crawling along on a one-lane street, and so I have nothing to do but to exclaim, aloud, “WHERE’S THE PARADE?” And when that hasn’t been conveyed to anyone’s satisfaction, to mime Queen Elizabeth, throwing cupped hand waves to the imaginary crowds lining the street on either side of me.
As you might expect, this reaction has in no way cleared the path in front of me. And yet… WHAT, ARE WE IN A PARADE? … the waving continues.
Another behavior I’ve adopted that can’t be described as collegial — but that, nonetheless, has probably spared my current cars’ horns — is my tendency to convey some giddy-up to the car in front of me whenever the light turns green and… they… don’t… seem… to… be… able… to… seeeeend… aaaaaaaa… siiiiii…. gnaaaaaallll… from… their… brain… toooo… theiiiirrrrr… foooot… with… any… deeee… greeee… oooooffff… spee—.
OK. You get the idea.
Instead of leaning both elbows on my horn the way I might have done (OK, did) when I was 20-something, I offer a cheery little rapid beep on my horn instead.
Be-dee-be-be-de-deet! my horn calls out.
As in, Can-you-jump-start-your-brain?
Inevitably, this doesn’t serve to whip them into motion, but, given the snail’s pace at which their neurons evidently fire, only distracts them for that much longer, or else sidetracks them into a choice hand gesture or delay to clean their pants or whatever other moronic side projects they dream up while I just want to get through the light and on to the next one.
WHAT, ARE WE IN A PARADE?
And yet I persist.
Read my fingers: Four-Oh
Eventually, as the frayed nerves in the driver in front of me punch the timecards of individual messengers in the Synapse Union (Brotherhood of Delayed Reactions, Local 666) and carry their complicated message of foot-press-gas forward to ever so precise execution…
(TAKE A BREATH)
… we begin to inch forward.
It’s then that the third annoying quick I cart around with me may make itself known, as I glance at the speedometer and the surrounding pets, children, grasshoppers and ants surging ahead while we rediscover locomotion and it registers, like a toothache or a persistent woodpecker to the forehead, that we are merely going 15 or 20, that I make the attempt to communicate through windshields and open space and windshields again and genetically-endowed craniums.
I hold up my right hand and flash, in sequence:
FOUR (fingers up)
OH (fingers touching thumb in a circle)
You know, because that’s the actual speed limit. And we could be going twice as fast as we are. They even print it for you on helpful little signs along side of the road.
Would it surprise you that this message is rarely understood?
Right. Probably not.
And so I punctuate my struggle in communication with a tap of both hands on the steering wheel and the universal arms up gesture of “I-surrender-to-your-glaring-stupidity-and-subject-myself-to-unending-blocks-of-this-for-it-is-my-lot-in-life-to-suffer-and-be-cursed-with-the-knowledge-I-am-suffering.” Or, something near to that.
Who knows? By the time I’m sixty maybe we’ll just teleport to our destinations and road rage and traffic-stuck-stress will be things of my unmellow past.
But you could be a little faster on that teleport button. Yeesh!