Sunday, February 21, 2010


Dilatory in posting, I've been chided. Shrug, I've been busy. Not that it matters, the local newspapers bickering, more Tiger balm for the masses, bankers back to being bankers. Politics, politics and another offensive in Afghanistan (Obama's War, according to a PBS piece).

I drive a lot lately. If the Department of Public Safety is cracking down on aggressive drivers, it's on other streets in other villages. A recent study claimed that most motorists weren't as competent as they thought. The evidence is out there every day.

I've always been bemused by the 'slalom' drivers here. With the distances involved, how much faster can you get anywhere cutting in and out of traffic? My tentative conclusion is that it's some sort of compensation. 'Sure, I'm still going to be late, but look how hard I'm trying to make up the time'. Nobody's watching but your superego, of course. I guess that's part of being socialized: act as if your disapproving aunt is judging every move, even when you're alone.

My reaction is different, if not quite opposite. Much of it comes from far too much time on the road after midnight, or later after the bars close. There's a simple rule if someone is weaving, driving erratically, too fast or too slow: keep them in front of you.

That last one might take some patience, but it's a hard-earned lesson. I once passed some yahoo stumbling down the road at 15 miles an hour and immediately found myself in a bad Fast and Furious remake (ok, that's redundant). Who knows what will push the road rage button when someone is making all of their decisions with their brain stem? It's all about control. If you're in front of me I have it, behind me and I'm a potential victim.

They're the worst, but drunks aren't the only problem to get before me. Cellphoners and text-punch-drunks come in a close second. I added the ubiquitous, pestilent white tour van years ago. Now, of course, any Toyota* is on the list.

Driver's education wasn't a big thing back in the day, but I remember learning about defensive driving. I vaguely recall a film with horrible, twisted corpses in horrible, twisted wreckage.

So, when I wonder whether that guy is going to pull out right in front of me at five miles-an-hour, he usually does. If I consider that gal likely to cross over into my lane for no reason, she often does. Dogs, cats and rugrats are alarmingly oblivious to tons of steel whizzing by.

There are some vivid images imprinted in my brain. I was crawling up the hill to the college (I still think of Dr. Torres Hospital and call it hospital hill) in a long line moving at the speed of a truck-full of gravel. There were only two lanes and the shoulder barely existed. Coming the other way, drunk at eight in the morning, was a fellow who veered into the gravel 'just a bit'. He over-corrected and zigged straight at the car in front of me. In stop-motion I saw (and see) his wide eyes as he zagged and over-corrected again, I see the driver in front of me looking over his shoulder equally wide-eyed with his mouth in a cartoon oval of surprise. Three's the charm, so his last over-correction took him just past me and he piled into the next car. The last image, less vivid, is the man behind me leaning away from the inevitable collision.

Luckily, no one was hurt-- drunks seldom are, anyway-- but there was nothing any of us could do. Out of our hands, luck of the draw. I'm doing my best to never be in that helpless position again.

* Some 'independent expert' was quoted as saying that while one of the Toyota brake fixes seemed expensive at millions of dollars, it was actually *only* a buck or two per car. That would be one explanation for him not working for a car company, their logic being that if you can save a dollar or two on each car it's millions on the bottom line. (I hope Nissan executives had bad dreams for awhile because of the evil psychic juju I was generating when I discovered my Sentra had a nylon timing belt.)

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