“Anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.” (George Carlin)
I’ve heard complaints about the drivers in pretty much every city I’ve ever lived. Depending on the day and person relating the tale, the drivers in question are too fast or too slow, too reckless or too safe, too distracted or too impatient, etc.
And let’s face it: At one point or another we have all been That Driver. I was nearly That Driver today, when I was so, “Huh, I had no idea that a 24-hour laundromat has been sitting in this location of a street I drive down twice a day” that had I continued down that train of thought, I would have curbed my car.
But most of the complaints I hear really boil down to one of two underlying causes, and both of them can be traced down to the fact that when we’re driving, we’re hermetically sealed in our own moving universes, emboldened by power without remembering the privileges. So, if you will, a quick primer on how to be a better driver:
part i: Hey, there’s someone behind you!
There are, in fact, LOTS of cars behind you, and Part 1 has at its heart this mission: Don’t make them mad by not considering them.
I’m talking about you, Pokey McDriverson, going way under the speed limit … until you realize the stoplight ahead is about to turn red, so you speed up just enough so you can make it. You know who else would have loved to make it through that spotlight? The driver behind you. But he couldn’t, because for too long you were drifting away like Dobie Gillis. You don’t want to know the things he wishes would happen to you while he waits an entire stoplight cycle, delayed even further by the light rail passing by.
Feel free to remember Part I of the most important rules of driving when you find yourself considering other situations, such as these:
“Oh, no! I was not paying attention on the freeway, and now I am in danger of missing my exit, which is like 100 feet away.”
What you do: Own up to your mistake, take the next exit, where you can turn around and head back to the other way to revisit the scene of your shame. What you do not do: Slow to a crawl—or to a complete stop, as happened to me once on the 202—hoping to move horizontally and make your exit. Why not? You’re screwing up every lane of traffic right now — yours, and the ones on either side where people are like, “Why is this driver slamming on the brakes?” During rush hour, that butterfly effect goes back MILES. Yes, it can be a pain to drive an extra mile up and return back. But guess what: You should have known better. Pay attention next time.
“Is this the cross street I’m looking for, which crosses this 45-mph multilane road? Yes? No?”
What you do: Why didn’t you Garmin this? Or Mapquest it ahead of time? See above. What you do not do: Brake to 15 mph at every cross street, until you finally encounter the one you’re looking for. Why not? Everyone hates a mobile speed bump, and circling back an extra block if you miss it isn’t going to kill you. Cars operate in both directions, you know.
“I have EVERY RIGHT to be in this far left lane. The guy behind me can just cool his heels.”
What you do: Move to the right, unless you’re passing. Why? It’s about highway courtesy. I am a friendly driver (one time my passenger was like, “How can you not be mad at that guy blowing by you?” and I replied, “What if his kid is sick and he’s rushing to the hospital?”), so this isn’t a hotheaded speed-demon thing. Professional truck drivers know this. Why don’t you? What you do not do: Be a jerk—even if the other person is being a jerk. Don’t stay in the lane—or, God forbid, slow down “to teach him a lesson.” This is why road rage shootings and beatings are a thing.
“Me, in the drive-thru? Just hanging out. No rush.”
What you do: Pull up closer to the car in front of you — not like kissing bumpers, but not with a car length between you, either. Why? Because that giant gap between you and the car in front of you is preventing me, two cars back, from actually reaching the box where I can place my order. If you’re worried you’re too close, think of it this way: Can you turn your wheels and get out from behind the car if you had to? Then that’s just close enough. You’re not on the Autobahn, and even if the car in front of you is a manual transmission vehcile, it’s not going to roll back that far unless your drive-thru is on a hill.
“I am done with my cigarette/soda/thing.”
What you do: Keep what’s left in your car, and throw it away. What you do not do? I can’t believe this is even something that needs repeating: Don’t throw it out your window. Every time I see someone drop a cigarette butt, I wish I could re-create this ad. (Only without the beauty: I just want to roll up next to them and throw the butt back in their car.)
Part II — hey, there’s someone in front of you!
|WHAT SAM WORE: 6-23-13|
|The shirt: University of Montana T-shirt, from Gart Bros. in Billings.|
|The shorts: Corduroy cutoffs, on clearance at Lucky Brand in Chandler.|
|The shoes: Custom All-Stars, which Funny Michael made
as a birthday present at converse.com.