Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?
—Jack Kerouac from “On The Road”
Road rage is the expression of the amateur sociopath in all of us, cured by running into a professional.
The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers
Hey! Let’s be careful out there!
–Sargent Phil Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues)
Could the fault lay in our Google-driven need for immediate (though incomplete) answers and instant gratification? Maybe we can saddle the blame on the coming of age graduates of a sabotaged public education system. Perhaps the anomie and stark realization that we are a polarized, hopelessly divided nation facing a grim future of diminished expectations is getting to all of us. Some suggest it is the powerless grasping for any semblance of control. Whatever the reason, whether inane or tragically poignant, the roads are becoming more dangerous, and our fellow motorists less civil. Rather than attempt to understand or make a citizen’s arrest, here are my “fab five” of least favorite transgressors.
Right turn tinted window guy. You are approaching an intersection at the posted speed with a green light beckoning. At the crossroads is an impatient cretin who remembers something from driver training class about being able to make a right hand turn on a red light. Forgotten is the part about proceeding only if no one coming. The light is green and there will not be a better or more legal time for you to cross, and besides, the driver in the car behind you seems to have his heart set on both of you making the light. Right turn guy is a sphinx with his tinted windows. The front third of his car is directly in your path as he decides whether to jack rabbit before you get there, or watch you frantically navigate oncoming traffic. Neither he nor his car have a reverse gear. He will not retreat; failure is not an option! Either way, your rigid adherence to the law is a terrible inconvenience to him.
The tailgater/weaver. Put simply, their life and time is more important than yours. Every second counts, and they are losing valuable billable hours marooned behind you on a one lane road. Their design of an information retrieval system that will render the Internet obsolete is behind schedule. Some are on the med/surg. team at the Mayo Clinic doing groundbreaking research on the use of hamster bile to treat post myocardial infarctions. One can feel the telegraphed shaming vibe and aggravating vitriol emanating as they race ahead like Pac Man in search of their next morsel. If they are so important, why do they tend to drive rusty Dodge Chargers? (I believe when they get to their destination they scratch themselves, turn on the tube and grab a “brewski.”)
The four way non-stopper It doesn’t matter who goes first — perhaps it’s the car closest to the equator — but once begun there is a natural and legal order: counterclockwise. I suspect the same rapscallions who budged the lunch line in grade school are still doing it today. Perhaps they are unaware or scornful of the corollary to the counterclockwise rule which states “something before nothing.” In our social contract, we pass to the right but a late arriver must wait for a full rotation to go. The egregious will “me too” or “piggy back” behind a crossing vehicle.
The “It’s like barely red” dude/dudette Red is stop; green is go. Wrong! After the light turns from red to green, do not proceed with caution but with trepidation. You may even consider getting out of the car or at least taking a long look to your left and right. The odds are good that a barreling “entitlement express” will be trying to make the light that has already passed through the autumn colors of yellow and red. Since it was only yellow/orange the last time they peeked, it seems reasonable that accelerating will get them through the pesky intersection. Fortunately there is often the sound of a pounding bass guitar to signal their arrival. Their logic (using the term loosely) seems to be, “I came through this light yesterday at this time and it was green, so I should be able to go, and besides, if I am late again, my manager will kill me.” The same applies for long left turns across four lanes of traffic.
The “What’s it to you?” non-turn signaler You would like to make a left turn before all the traffic on your right is unleashed, but there is a vehicle approaching from your left at a speed that would make crossing in front dicey. Waiting patiently you hope the car will pass before the onslaught. Oh wait, they are turning right just in front of you. Miffed or a bit stronger, you look at the driver as he/she completes the turn. You are feet away, close enough to read their look. Between arrogance and cluelessness, implied is Where and when I choose to turn is none of your business.” There is ample time to mull this affront as the window for a left turn has closed and the gaggle of autos, ox carts and rickshaws streaming past right to left now appears to be unending.
Tom H. Cook is aware that he sounds like an old crank. His defense is that he has always been like this. He remains an above average driver and vehicular parliamentarian.