5 Very Strong Opinions about Driving

October 17, 2007

I was reminded of a few of the Things I Hate The Most on my queasy way back from Salem tonight. I am still not back to a health point where I feel awesome about venturing out of my house, but I had a midterm for my viticulture class that was non-optional, so again the trek down I-5 and back. Here’s the thing. I absolutely hate, with an enveloping layer of vitriol, inattentive drivers.

Any excessive intra-cockpit dingling with gadgetry gets my hackles up (just ask Mr. Pencil). Looking out my passenger-side window to espy the next-door driver wandering into our lane with a half-eaten chalupa in one hand and an iPhone in the other makes me so riled that if I weren’t the effete passive-aggressive chump that I am, there would be some animated gesturing.

My problem, in sum, is that I feel that Americans don’t take driving seriously enough. Yes, it’s condescending, but I (like the vast majority of the rest of Americans–go figure) believe that I am a relatively superior driver. I’ll temper this by saying that my skills lie in broader-stroke driving: long hauls on freeways and journeys on sinuous mountain passes. Any situation where subtle maneuvering is required causes me to get all clenchy. Let it suffice to say that I am a passable parallel-parker but a hopeless backer-upper.

But I have driven coast to coast either 11 or 13 times now; I’ve lost track. I’ve driven in 48 states. So I was reminded tonight of a few observations.

  1. There are some hot pockets of sheer driving evil in this country. For this sad award I think I’m going to single out: Nevada! Congratulations, Nevada, you suck. Sort of stunningly. Granted, I’ve never driven in Alaska or Hawaii but I’m going to assume they couldn’t possibly suck this much. The stretch of I-15 into Las Vegas is my definition of blinding idiocy: SUVs of drunk 22-year-olds passing dawdling Buicks full of clutches of grandparents, often passing on the shoulder. Infuriating spates of miles passed going 40MPH only to accelerate immediately to 90, mostly caused by my biggest driving no-no, which is:
  2. There is never, ever, ever any valid reason to hang out in the hammer lane. Get in it, do your business, pass your old folks and your tractor-trailers, then get the hell out. You are not cool enough to decide what speed everyone else on the freeway gets to go. I cannot count the number of hissy fits I’ve been forced to throw because of some moron boxing me in in the left lane. It is not a travel lane. It is not, in fact, for driving in. It’s for passing. This is not a subtle thing. It’s black and white and doesn’t take a lot of self-inspection to execute upon.
  3. People in L.A. and New England drive like assholes, but for some reason it works for me. There’s a certain elegance to it and it’s wrapped in a tortilla of effectiveness.
  4. People in Chicago and Boston drive like assholes, but it really doesn’t work for me. Extra malevolence and lack of self-preservation prevail. I find Chicago terrifying and Boston infuriating (a taxi once hit my car on purpose in Boston because he didn’t want me to merge onto the freeway…apparently at all).
  5. It’s not that hard to avoid getting speeding tickets. My friends less fortunate in this department are likely to take umbrage at this assertion, but I swear 9 miles over is the ticket (if you will), 7 miles over if I’m feeling cagey or paranoid. I haven’t had a speeding ticket since 1999. I haven’t had a speeding ticket I deserved since I was 16, but boy howdy did I deserve that.
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