In my humble opinion, everyone is allowed to have at least a handful of pet peeves. I haven’t been all that shy about writing about some of mine in the past several weeks. The Christmas craze, lottery madness, and confusing beliefs about what makes someone a good person are bound to make my blood pressure rise and my fingers move madly on the keyboard. But if you want to know what really gets me going…well, I’m going to tell you whether you want to know or not! It’s the way people drive. And what better time to expound on the subject that a few days before Black Friday and right after I bash Christmas?
I spend a lot of time behind the wheel not only of my car, but of rental cars and the cars of other people. Though I choose not to drive in foreign countries, since it’s bad enough to maneuver in a familiar environment and on the side of the car and the side road we drive on, I have driven in forty-nine out fifty states. (I wasn’t blessed with the keys to a rental when I visited Hawaii.) The things I’ve seen drivers do to get one car length ahead of someone is flat out embarrassing. Here are a few of my big favorites:
*Crossing over two or more lanes on an interstate or divided highway from the passing lane to exit.
*Passing on either side when a red light is clearly up ahead then throwing brakes on after sliding between me and the car in front of me, so that I have to slam mine on to avoid a rear ending that will be my fault.
*Accelerating and whizzing past me when one lane turns to two, only to end up next to me again at the next stop light. (I fantasize about this one. Expect a toot and a wave from me, perhaps even a thumbs up, because you deserve it. You beat me to the red light. Good for you!)
*Tailgating. Don’t even get me going on this one!
Truth is, perfectly nice people turn into animals when a steering wheel and four tires are involved. Add a cell phone and the ante goes through the roof. Add a child or two and the whole equation gets plain scary.
Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I’m always questioning the motivation behind someone who will cut me off within inches of my life and theirs, too, when there isn’t another car behind me for half a mile. Here are my theories: Impatience. Ignorance. Competitive spirit. Lack of control over one’s life. Anger. Unhappiness. Stress. “It won’t happen to me” syndrome. Or simply, boredom. Clue me in, crazy drivers. What makes you slow down only long enough to get a gander at a deadly accident, then put the pedal to the metal? What makes you drive over curbs and fail to stop for your fellow worshipers in a crosswalk five minutes after you leave a holy dwelling? How about the brainiac that runs a red flashing school bus sign? What, may I ask, is the gain?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m no angel when it comes to road rage. But I’m usually reacting to someone getting in my five-miles-over-the-speed-limit comfort zone. Case in point: the poor lady with two kids hanging out the window that decided to tailgate me, then proceeded to swerve and toot and giggle after I touched my brakes to back her off. Did I intentionally switch lanes when she tried to get by me? Check. Did I offer her some sign language lessons? Check. But my crowning achievement was when she pulled up at a fresh stop light behind me, still having herself one hell of a good time at my expense, and I swaggered out of my VW Bug cop-style with pen and paper in my hand, and pretended to write down her license plate number. She wanted to get away from me for a completely different reason after that little event. Score!
Listen folks, I give myself enough time to get places. I break for squirrels. Like the cutie at the top of the page, I’m not above slowing down to piss you off. Because here’s the message: IT AIN’T ALL ABOUT YOU!!
As we head into this holiday season that most people have forgotten the meaning of, do the world and yourself a favor and slow down. That person you’re flipping out on could have just buried a loved one. Or had a session of chemotherapy. Or was degraded by someone who is supposed to love them. Or just decided not to commit suicide and instead, to face another day. With that thought in mind, is it really that important to beat them to the next red light?
And hey, Happy Thanksgiving, too.