Archive for the ‘road rage rant’ Category

I fully intended to begin this tome yesterday when I was initially pumped up by an incident (not uncommon) that happened while driving through a mall parking lot on my way to Mickie D’s for some comfort food.  I’m fending for myself, nutritionally, as my live-in gourmet cook is visiting my Mom in Kansas City for a week or so, and left me to forage for myself in the meantime.  So, I might have been a bit light-headed from hunger and glucose imbalance to remember to stay angry so I could write what I wanted to say.  Today, another common traffic experience happened and now I’m so full of bile it’s leaking out my ears.

Have you driven down the lanes in a parking lot and noticed out of the corner of your eye some idiot cutting across the empty parking spaces as if this was her private estate and she was out in the Rover inspecting the livestock?  It happens all the time.  Since when? This person was just cruising along at a diagonal to the parking rows heading away from me (I thought); I turned right to head for the drive-through entrance when, surprise, surprise this well-coiffed blue-hair fresh from the salon comes barging out from between two parked cars right in front of me.  I stomped on the brakes; she stopped also and gave me this stupid grin that screamed “Whoopsie!”  I made it a point to sit there and glare at her for the potential accident she almost caused.  And for what reason?  I can’t figure out why (many) people suspend good sense and drive like they’re on drugs or something.

He's Not Wearing a Seat Belt

He’s Not Wearing a Seat Belt.

I learned a partial explanation reading The Ascent of the A-Word by Geoffrey Nunberg (2012, PublicAffairs), a scholarly study of the use of the word which came to embody the incivility and self-centeredness characterizing our society over the last sixty years, including gradual changes in the way people conduct themselves in traffic situations.  What else makes someone drive as if they are the only one on the asphalt except pure self-absorption and carelessness for the safety and welfare of others?  Who knew Grandma was an asshole?

At the Mall Later That Same Day

At the Mall Later That Same Day

Today was a different story albeit equally common and rude:  I was backing out of an angled parking space on a one way street with parking on both sides and one lane down the middle.  As I moved backwards in reverse (back-up lights shining brightly) first one car jets past behind me not slowing a wit to get past me before I get into the traffic lane.  Not bad enough?  Immediately behind that jerk was Super Jerk who was also determined to keep right on driving behind me as I pulled out into the street.  I guess he expected me to slam on my brakes and let him barge past.  Little did he know (until a second later) I had no intention of obliging him.  I hit the horn and the gas and guess who slammed on the brakes?  Not me.

I use my horn a lot:  God made the auto horn as a wake-up call for assholes.  Sometimes I blow the horn at bicyclists or a pedestrian if they do something patently stupid or reckless or in violation of a traffic law.  I find many opportunities, but refuse to drain my battery using the horn as often as warranted.  I am not tolerant of traffic incivility and indiscretion, but there’s so much these days, it’s exhausting.  I just hope there’s a bit of operant conditioning  going on whereby the next time the miscreant thinks about doing something selfish and dangerous, he remembers everybody looking at him as I blew my horn long and loud.

He Has an Excuse:  He Doesn't Know How to Drive

He Has an Excuse:  He Doesn’t Know How to Drive.

Another commonplace involves a pedestrian crossing a downtown street, or a busy arterial in the middle of the street maybe 20 feet from a signed and signaled crosswalk.  Why do they put their life and my car insurance at risk to save 10 steps?  I don’t get it.  I’ve seen traffic stop, risking rear-end collisions, to allow a mother pushing a baby in a stroller ahead of her into the traffic to cross an arterial street in heavy traffic.  What the hell is going on?  The other day, my wife, God love her, was driving on a major traffic route near a freeway cloverleaf that’s choked with cars at all hours.  Ahead, a guy is making his way across the middle of the street 30 feet from two cross walks.  She stops in the middle of the street, risking getting rear-ended, he scuttles in front of us and completes his jaywalking.  I said, “Don’t stop for him!”  She said, “What do you want me to do, Bill, hit him?”  I said, “No, keep going and he will stop” maybe long enough to reflect on the idiocy of cutting across a busy street at rush hour and risking getting struck by a not-so-attentive driver as my wife.  I stopped short of calling her an enabler, but I thought it.  How do people learn to not be stupid?  (The jaywalker, I mean…)

I remember vividly a poster in my grade school depicting a little boy, horrified look on his face, flying through the air having been struck from behind by a car because he was walking with the flow of traffic and therefore harder to see from the back.  The objective was to train us kids to walk against traffic so our bright faces would be more visible to oncoming cars, and so we could watch oncoming traffic for signs of trouble, like weaving over the fog line.  It made sense then and it makes sense now.  But look how many walkers and joggers you see (with difficulty) moving in the same direction of the traffic flow today.  And, likewise, how many bicyclists, skateboarders and skaters do you see rolling against the traffic, despite being classified as vehicles and rightly moving with the flow of traffic?  So many people seem to be taking their lives in their hands without a thought to common sense.

I Was Such a Dope to Ride Against the Traffic!

I Was Such a Dope to Ride Against the Traffic!

If you think I’m just being cranky and making this up, you’re right on the first count but wrong on the second:  traffic safety laws and practices make sense because they reduce accidents and deaths, if followed.

Yet there is a cornucopia of practical and sensible directives regarding traffic etiquette that have gone completely out the window in modern times.  I have witnessed or experienced each of the following within the past year on the road:

  • passing on the shoulder of a one-lane street, past a moving or stopped car
  • passing at an intersection or on a bridge with a single lane of traffic
  • cutting diagonally across the opposing lane when turning left
  • tailgating (the leading cause of motorcycle-caused accidents)
  • passing at a yellow center line
  • entering from a side street ahead of oncoming traffic causing braking
  • red light running
  • the American Stop formerly known as the California Stop
  • blocking the road when an emergency vehicle approaches by stopping in place instead of “moving right for sirens and lights”
  • inattentive texters and phoners weaving into oncoming traffic or over the fog line
  • passing bicycles or pedestrians by charging headlong into oncoming traffic
  • charging a stop sign and stopping well past it, if at all
  • stopping, then accelerating, then stopping, then accelerating…
  • failure to use turn signals
  • personalized hand signals by bicyclists
  • bicyclists failing to stop or slow down at control points like intersections
  • bicyclists using the sidewalk for a road
  • stopping in the lane of traffic to talk on the phone
  • cutting curves or overshooting curves
  • straddling the center line (a.k.a. “taking your half out of the middle”)
  • walking after dark in Goth clothing, wearing eyeliner
  • texting, smoking and surfing the net while riding a bike (sometimes all at once)
  • bicyclists turning left from the right shoulder
  • turning left into oncoming traffic
  • turning right into oncoming traffic
  • blocking the road to ask (or give) directions
  • walkers failing to look left, look right, or look up from their hand-held device when stepping into the street
  • drivers failing to slow down or stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk

And these are just off the top of my head, in addition to the crazy behavior mentioned earlier.  Again I ask:  What the hell is going on that causes so much bad road manners?  Apparently law enforcement has thrown in the towel, as you see police officers in their cruisers cruising along running stop signs while jabbering on their cell phones…

Multitasking for a New Millenium

Multitasking for a New Millennium

Maybe we are not only more uncivil and thoughtless as a people, but also more complacent in our state-of-the-art car cocoons.  Maybe we need less power equipment that removes the true sensations of controlling a two-ton hunk of metal, plastic and glass.  Maybe cars should have fewer personal safety features like air bags and crumple zones designed to assure us that, despite our poor driving habits, we’ll be okay in the next head-on collision.

But how would this help change the equally risky actions of so many walkers and wheelers?  It wouldn’t.  Some universal approach needs to be tried, to get the attention of everyone “on the road” because everyone on the road is a risk to everyone else otherwise.

What is this Unified Theory of Best Practices which all citizens can follow?  Here’s a thought:  Be considerate enough to think about somebody other than yourself, and think about something other than your schedule, your life and your world.  Walk, bike, or drive a mile, just a mile to start, fully aware of your habits and idiosyncrasies as they relate to the safety and well-being of others.

Think about that.

It's Not a Movie.  It's Real Life.

It’s Not a Movie. It’s Real Life.