How I’ve made it seventeen blog entries before ranting about drivers is a testament to my willpower. This post will offer nothing other than a chuckle or two, if I’m lucky. You see, there’s no solution to these myriad issues other than to adhere to the title of this post — just drive your fucking car already! – and most of us know *that* will never happen.
First, allow me to present you with my resume. While long-haul truckers would probably scoff at my tally, I’m guessing I’ve driven more than the average commuter. I started my professional career about seventeen years ago. During those years, I never lived closer than 75 miles roundtrip from my workplace. For the past five years, I’ve driven 180 miles roundtrip. I estimate that during my tenure I’ve driven 500,000 miles (which is probably a little low, but makes for a nice even number). For the sake of argument, let’s say I was driving 60 mph on those trips (which is a fair guess…there are times I have to slow down to 45 mph as I go by towns, but there are also times I can go 65-75 mph on the freeways). Do the math and you get 8333 hours behind the wheel. Dive further and you arrive at 347 days. Add in the fact that the number is even higher if you account for rush-hour delays, the times when an hour-long ride through a MN snowstorm turns into a three-hour ride, and driving around town with the family, and I assume I’m over a year. As a forty-year-old, that means I’ve spent 2.5% of my total life commuting. Shrink it down to the years I’ve been working, and the number jumps to almost 6%. Kind of depressing.
[Excuse me while I curl into the fetal position and suck my thumb awhile.]
All of which is a long-winded way of saying I’ve been in trenches, and I’ve seen it all.
Let’s see, where to start? I suppose the most common gripe I have is distracted drivers. These days, everyone has a cell phone and A LOT of people are using them while driving. It used to be that mere phone calls pissed off people (I have to assume you’ve all seen the “Hang Up and Drive” bumper stickers like I have…), but there’s waaaaaay more stuff to distract drivers than conversations: Facebook, Twitter, Internet browsing, podcasts, etc. I admit that I’m guilty of looking down at the phone if a message comes in, but I’ve made a concerted effort to pull over to the side of the road if I feel a message needs a response, or simply ignoring the message if I’m unable to write back safely. There have been far too many stories of car accidents and deaths related to drivers looking down at their phones for a split-second and veering onto the shoulder or into oncoming traffic, and I sure as shit don’t want to be a part of those statistics.
But phones aren’t the only problem on the road. I’ve seen drivers eating food, putting on makeup, combing their hair, reading newspapers and books and tablets, shaving with both an electric shaver AND using a straight-edge and cream (no idea how that works…a water-filled cup to rinse out the cream and stubble, mayhap?!), messing around with something in the backseat, driving with knees or elbows, receiving handjobs or blowjobs from a passenger, changing into different clothing, and brushing teeth (again with the cup?) to name a few. Honest to God, when you spend as much time on the roads as I do and see the crazy shit people are doing, whether in a rush-hour standstill (not quite as dangerous) or flying 70 mph down the highway (a suicide attempt if ever there was one), it’s amazing auto-related fatalities aren’t 100x worse than they are already.
These are just the things that people do while *inside* their cars. Now we add the stupid shit people do *with* their cars. The list of bad behavior is long. City folk get to deal with lane merges due to road construction, during which some moron *always* decides he’s not going to merge until the last possible moment, thus snarling traffic to a crawl until someone lets the driver come over. Not to be outdone, country peeps get to deal with impatient drivers who decide they’re going to swing out and pass a line of ten cars, and because they’re *going* to get to the head of the pack, they’ll run oncoming traffic onto the shoulder because, goddammit, their time is important! And what driver doesn’t like getting a prostate exam when a tailgater is so far up his ass the car leaves an imprint of its license plate on his insides. Drivers who never use turn signals or never turn them off. Drivers who don’t check a blind spot. Drivers who don’t take turns at a stop sign. Drivers who go sooooooooo fucking slooooooooow in the left lane and refuse to move over. And on and on we go.
Then we come to road rage. Whether it’s because of any of the aforementioned tomfoolery or drivers are just more pissy than ever, road rage is a very real problem. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve muttered and/or cursed to myself in the car, usually as a release from nearly getting killed. Only once have I come close to raging on someone in a car (more on that soon). Talking to yourself in a car is one thing; others take it much, much further. I’ve seen people roll down windows and scream at a neighboring driver, all while looking at the person they’re yelling at and ignoring the road ahead. I’ve seen drivers swerve at a car adjacent to them in a move that, I don’t know, allows for more aggression than mere yelling, all while making it known they’d like the other driver to die in the ditch? I’ve seen “slighted” drivers do whatever it takes to weave through traffic and get in front of the person who committed the infraction, just so the angry driver can pound on the brakes and make his displeasure known. And this is the “nice road rage,” for lack of a better term. Everyone’s heard the stories of ragers forcing another driver to stop and either beating or killing the other person. Insanity in the truest sense of the word.
As stated above, I’ve come close to raging on someone only once in my driving career. About eight years ago I was leaving a parking ramp. I wound my way to the automated payment kiosk and had one car in front of me. I stopped behind that driver and started getting my wallet out of my pocket when my car rocked backward. The guy in front of me had backed up into my front end, then pulled forward. I looked up and thought to myself, What the hell was that all about? I let it go – I’m not one of those guys who gets whipped up about my car’s scratches and dings – and resumed going for my wallet…when the guy backed into my car again. At that point I was quite literally screaming every curse word ever uttered by man (and probably a few I made up on the spot) all while having a tantrum similar to Cameron’s in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The car pulled forward again, and as I got out of my car I saw the reverse lights come back on, at which point I started walking forward and yelled at the top of my lungs, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” The driver stomped on his brakes just before hitting my automobile a third time and put his car in park, after which he got out to talk to me. While my blood was still boiling, I saw he was probably 25-30 years my elder, so I did my best to keep my temper in check, being the gentleman I am.
I led off with, “What are you doing? You hit my car twice!”
He responded, “Yeah, sorry about that. The machine is broken so we need to back up and go to a different lane.”
I gaped at him for at least five seconds and said, “We need to go backwards?”
“Because the machine is broken?”
“Don’t you think it would’ve been easier to walk back and ask me to put my car in reverse instead of hitting me twice in hopes I’d understand the dilemma?”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. That’s what I should have done.”
I checked my front bumper. It had some dents and scrapes from his dirty work, but I let it go – again, I’m not a pretty boy with my wheels. By that time I had two cars behind me, so I walked back to each of them and told them the situation (not sure how I came up with such a brilliant idea on my own…must have had a momentary rush of Einstein-like intellect), we all reversed, shifted lanes, and were on our way. Am I proud of my reaction? Not really, even though I was the only real recipient of my rage. But I can see how it happens when people do stupid shit with their cars.
All of which leads us to our exciting finale: parking lots.
There is nowhere on planet Earth where it is easier to separate a decent human being from a godless motherfucker than in a parking lot. I try my best to stay away from the drama by parking waaaaaaay in the back and walking a longer distance into the store (much to my wife’s chagrin, who doesn’t like to walk through the wind and snow and rain while humoring my abhorrence of parking lots). What, Andy, are you talking about? you ask. Allow me to explain.
As stated above, I’m not a car guy. Never have been, never will be. I don’t dream about luxury cars, fast cars, or classic cars. I don’t think about cars at all, other than to hope they get me from here to there. As such, people who think so highly of their cars that they take up 2-3 spots in a parking lot drive me crazy. If someone is that worried about a damned car, they should either leave it at home and use a lowlier car that is acceptable for one parking space, or don’t buy the seen-but-not-used toy to begin with. I can understand why someone’s reaction to such nonsense might be something like this:
[Although I might park a little closer to the driver’s side door and make it that much more interesting.]
The second worst kind of person is the one who pilfers your position after you’ve been waiting for a car to reverse from its spot. I mean, seriously…that driver *knows* you’re sitting there, blinker on, waiting to get into that spot, and the soulless bastard zips right in there, sometimes with a little smirk on his face, sniping it away. Who does that?! An asshole, that’s who.
[It’s enough to make a grown person cry.]
But the absolute worst person, worse than anyone previously listed, is the dude who drives crossways across a big parking lot. Parking lots have aisles for a reason, much like, you know, roads have lanes. If people could drive wherever the hell they wanted to, it might be dangerous (i.e. anarchy). I’m not sure when this started happening, but more and more often people forsake the relative simplicity of going horizontal at the ends of the aisles and going up-and-down the aisles themselves for dumbfuckery such as this:
[Insert primal roar here.]
You know what makes these people even worse? It’s when I have the slam on my brakes and lock my seatbelt to keep from t-boning these wastes of air, after which they have the temerity to yell and swear and raise the middle finger before resuming their meandering path to a parking space.
[And now a brief intermission while I let my heartbeat get back to normal…]
If you’ve made it this far, I thank you for your patience while I vent. Writing has always been cathartic for me, but that doesn’t mean reading it does the same thing for you. I’ll wrap this up by stating that while driving has been a necessary evil in my life, it scares me to death most days. I feel like I need my head on a swivel while I’m on the roads. In all seriousness, I spend as much time looking to my sides and behind me as I do looking forward. With luck I’ll make it to a ripe old age without getting pasted to a guardrail by some dude manscaping himself with one hand while eating a taco with the other. A guy can dream, right?
Until we meet again…