You think you’re a pretty nice person, don’t you? I think I am. In fact, by and large I would wager that we all see ourselves as decent folks.
Then get behind the wheel of a car.
I drive about 20 miles each way commuting to work every day. I go in early, so the traffic isn’t stupid heavy, but it’s still fairly crowded. And it’s amazing how many of us nice people become total demon. Every day is a fight to the finish to see who can go the fastest. Or, the slowest.
Okay, obviously this is a pet peeve of mine.
I just don’t get it. Common sense seems to disappear faster than beer at a frat party. The left lane is intended to be the fast lane. Or it’s the passing lane in some states, not to be used to cruise, but only to get around someone slower in the middle lanes. A highway patrolman referred it to me once as the ‘Hammer Lane’. For the most part, that’s what happens. The line of cars may not be busting along as fast as everyone wants to go, but it’s moving faster than the lane next to them. But that’s not good enough. Some ass wipe feels they have to go faster, and weaves in and out trying to get ahead. They cut you off (or try to) to get over to the left. Then tailgate the car in front, hugging the bumper and flashing their lights to move the hell out of the way. And slamming on their brakes when the guy behind him gets too close. Never mind that there are 40 cars in front of you, all doing the same speed. And 40 cars in the lane next to you so you couldn’t even move over if you wanted to. Where the hell are you supposed to go?
The funny thing is, no matter how fast you manage to go, it only makes a few minutes difference when you get where you’re going. I see it all the time. Someone barrels ahead of you, and you end up sitting next beside them at the next stoplight. Or I’ve had co-workers pass going hammers from hell, then I pull into the parking lot just as they’re leaving the car. What’s the point?
The slow drivers are just as bad, just in a different way. I was taking a defensive driving class a few years ago (Yeah, I’ve had my own issues. In the past of course) and the instructor asked to describe the person driving slower than the speed limit and backing up traffic. And he got the expected answers… Jerk, asshole, inconsiderate bastards, and so on. We were wrong. They are aggressive drivers. An aggressive driver is one who is trying to control the movement of others by the way they handle their car. In their own way, someone poking along is just as aggressive as the speed demon. Consciously or not, they are affecting the flow of traffic.
But we’re good people!
I remember a story about an older woman who gets pulled over by the police. The officer jumps out of the car, jerks her door open, yanks her out of the car, slams her to the ground cuffs her. But she’s just a little old lady that looks just like your grandmother! She asks the officer why? What on earth could she had done? The officer looks at her and says, “Ma’am, you have all kinds of stickers on your car about peace, Jesus and church. But I saw you weaving in and out of traffic, flipping the bird, yelling and generally being a bitch. So I assumed that the car was stolen.”
To a small degree I do understand one aspect. When I need to take an exit I get lane anxiety. I have to get over in time to get off the highway. I don’t wait until the last minute, but usually about a mile ahead I start working over. When the traffic is heavy, I start getting nervous about making it. That’s when I might try to blow ahead of you, or force my way into the line next to me, even slowing way down until a spot opens up. Just being a total jerk in other words. All of which affects the traffic around me. If I wait too long I miss my exit, and if I get over too soon, I get stuck behind the slowpoke in the far right lane. That brings its own aggravation. So it has to be timed just right.
There’s a whole other observation about the type of car defining the driver. Each class of car has some generalization that can be applied to the expected driving style. Getting into that can get very offensive in a hurry. I’m not afraid of being offensive, but that’s a story for another day.
In a nutshell, it boils down to three types of drivers. The slow guy in front of you is a jerk. The guy tailgating you is an asshole. And the perfect driver?
He’s the aging, white haired man with a goatee driving a 2007 Toyota SUV.
Now get the fuck out of my way.