Yes, this will be yet another post about driving. Overpopulation coupled with poor funding of highway infrastructure has led to some pretty annoying situations out there on the road. I’m here to talk about five of them.
What I’m not here to talk about are obvious offenses such as drunk driving, failure to wear a seat belt, yakking or texting while driving, following too closely, driving too slowly, speeding, or deeming the turn signals present on every car sold in the past 75 years a worthless option. These infractions are obvious, they’re dangerous or at best, they’re obnoxious, and they annoy everybody. Well, almost everybody. There are obviously those who are completely oblivious behind the wheel and who have no clue whatsoever as to what is going on around them.
I’ll be talking about five specific driving techniques or maneuvers that bother me. Hey, alright, I’m a self-righteous hypocrite behind the wheel. No doubt I’ll piss off a plethora of pious perusers of this post by positing that a preponderance of drivers are, like me, self-righteous hypocrites. So, be offended. We’re all in the same boat out there. I’m certain that I do my share of dumb things that annoy other drivers, but in my mind, my driving is perfect. The late comedian George Carlin captured the essence of such hypocrisy in this line from his stand-up routine on driving: “How come anyone who wants to go faster than you and passes you is a maniac, while someone in front of you going too slow to suit you is an asshole?” That line has stuck with me, because it pretty much has always been how I view those frequently encountered situations on the road. My choice of labels for the culprits is exactly the same as Carlin’s: maniacs and assholes.
But I digress. Being a curmudgeon, I want to share with you the top five annoying acts of driving stupidity that particularly jerk my chain. I’m addressing this to you, people who offend me, so take heed! You know who you are.
- Parking lot lazy-assedness. On a bright, sunny day, you’re willing to circle around in the lot for 20 minutes looking for an absolutely perfect parking slot that is no more than 50 feet from the door of the establishment you are visiting, even though you cruise by perhaps two dozen spots that would merely require an easy 200 foot walk. You spy a suitable space where the present occupant is unloading a month’s supply of groceries from two carts stationed behind the car while she schmoozes with a friendly bag boy. So, not willing to let that primo space go, you plop your Hummer right down in the middle of the aisle to ensure that anyone else with designs on your parking space—notwithstanding anybody else—will be blocked. You sit and wait for another five minutes until the happy shopper and the congenial bag boy have said their goodbyes. You crank the old H1 in there and claim your prize. With the fuel you’ve wasted cruising the damn lot and waiting, you could have bought your wife some nice flowers. But no, you had to waste all that time and fossil fuel to get your lazy ass a minute closer to the store, dumbass! On a nice, sunny day, yet! What about rainy days? Oy, don’t ask!
- Gotta slow down to pass. I’m cruising down a four-lane divided highway and see a line of tractor/trailers in the right lane ahead. I see you, who have been following the trucks for the past ten miles, still tailgating the trailing 18-wheeler. I flick my left turn signal, indicating that I’m going to switch lanes in order to pass you and the six or seven heavy vehicles when you decide that you can’t let me get ahead of you. No, that would be damaging to your manhood or, if you happen to be of the fairer sex, it would concede male superiority. You speed up and slide directly in front of me into the passing lane, as if to pass the trucks, but just as you are hard abeam of the trailer, you slow down to match its speed. This move never ceases to confound me. What could you be thinking? Are you afraid of passing the trucks? Then why the hell are you in the passing lane? Or are you too lazy to turn off your cruise control so that those behind you who want to pass the trucks can pass? If so, and if you were content to be driving behind the line of trucks and maintaining their speed with your cruise control for ten miles, again, why the hell did you get into the passing lane? Oh, you say it was uphill and the trucks were slowing down. Why the hell does that mean that you have to slow down to their speed in the damn passing lane? God, you’re stupid!
- You just have to pass me. You’ve been tailgating me for miles, so I slow down to try to get you to pass me. After all, you’ve been doing a slow burn back there, waving your hands and otherwise acting like a monkey. I’ll steal another line from Carlin: I want this asshole up there in front of me, where I can keep an eye on him. So, you finally pass me, acting as if you’ve been relieved of the great, heavy burden your driving histrionics attempt to convey to me. You just had to impress me that I was going as slow as a 90 year-old lady on her way to church in her ’48 Plymouth on Sunday. How? By making me eat your dust and shooting me the one-finger salute on the way past, although you find it necessary to be traveling at least 40 miles per hour in excess of my speed when you pass, affording me precious little time to glimpse your precious little finger. That’s a bit disappointing, because I want to see enough of you to confirm that you look as stupid as you act. Now that you’ve made your statement(s), I can speed up and be rid of your tailgating. I resume my original speed. I see you up ahead—but why am I closing the gap between me and you? As I get closer, I estimate that you’re going five miles per hour slower than I am. Now, I have to overtake you, and the whole process begins anew. Retard!
- There’s a reason for that limit line. This happens to me almost every day as I leave my community. The entry/exit has four lanes divided into two in each direction by a large sign resembling a granite cemetery monument displaying the name of the community. There is a traffic signal at the intersection of this community access road and a major, six-lane suburban highway. There is a limit line painted on the road just beyond the front of the “tombstone”. (For those of you who flunked the written part of your driving test, a limit line is that thick, white line you see on the road at intersections with traffic lights or stop signs. Its purpose is to signify where you should stop your car while you wait for the light or for traffic to clear at the stop sign. There are several sound traffic engineering principles behind limit lines: ensuring visibility of other motorists, ensuring that cars do not impede the pedestrian crosswalk in front of the line, and ensuring that large trucks have an adequate clearance for their large turn radius, to name a few. Limit lines don’t seem to get a lot of respect—they’re so misunderstood.) Sometimes, I make a right turn at this intersection. Right turns on red lights have been legal for over 40 years, so people should be used to them by now. Yet, invariably, some dork with a van or a large SUV will have cruised to a stop in the left lane, well past the limit line and halfway into the crosswalk. Oh, that was you? Well, I’m trying to make a right turn here, and I don’t have friggin’ X-ray vision, damnit! I can’t see the cross traffic because of you and your sloppy driving habits. Would it have have made you late at the Burger King drive-through if you had stopped ten feet earlier? Hell, no!
Another variation of this limit line stupidity is what I call the stop and creep creep [sic]. You, the creep, stop at a red light, already beyond the limit line, and you immediately start creeping forward, slowly, jerkily—not because you’ve seen the light start to change in the cross direction, but because you’re neurotic and impatient—oh yeah!—and stupid. By the time the light actually does change, you’ve impatiently nosed out beyond the pedestrian crosswalk into the intersection. But then a curious thing happens. Why is it that you morons who perform this maneuver are invariably the last ones to start moving forward for real when the light turns green? Because you’re neurotic morons and that’s what neurotic morons do!
- Left-footed brakers. The vast preponderance of cars sold in the United States have automatic transmissions, meaning that the driver’s left foot is free from performing clutch duties. Most drivers of automatic cars, when receiving driving instruction, are taught to use their right foot for both accelerator and brake, switching between the two pedals as necessary. Some applications exist for left-footed braking, for example, when starting forward on a severe uphill slope, but for everyday driving, the technique generally doesn’t work out too well. “Why?” you ask. “After all, it cuts out the time necessary to switch pedals with the right foot.” Yes, it does. No question about that. On the other hand, left-footed braking typically tends to involve resting the left foot on the brake pedal most of the time, which can cause the brakes to drag, decreasing fuel economy and brake life. Worse, it causes the rear brake lights to flash maddeningly at drivers behind you. So, Mr. Left-foot Hotshot, you are in front of me with that left foot spasmodically pulsing the brake pedal, whether due to laziness, restless leg syndrome, or having your girlfriend or wife (or both) fondling you, and your damn brake light is telling me that you’re stopping. So, I hit the brakes. But you’re not stopping. So, I hit the gas. Then, your damn brake lights flash on again. Are you stopping or not? How the hell do I know. I better be safe, rather than sorry. You’re not stopping, damn it! I hit the gas and then you fake me out into thinking that you’re still dicking around, when you finally decide to stop. I screech to a halt an inch behind your rear bumper. Oh, look. I see your bumper has lots of dents and scratches in it. Wonder why. Because you couldn’t beat a chimpanzee’s score on an intelligence test, fool!
Good. I got that off my chest. It’s been bugging me since this morning, when I encountered each of the situations I described above. Thanks a lot, imbecilic drivers of Greater Orlando! You never fail to validate my self-righteous, hypocritical postulates.
If you feel inspired, please use blog comments below to postulate your own self-righteous Top Five or, alternatively, to bitch about mine.