Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Judge not...oh, screw it!

Let's get one thing straight: I should be working right now.

Okay? Now that we have THAT out of the way, let me start in with my vent about astonishingly bad drivers. I read a survey once in which an overwhelming percentage of drivers considered themselves to be "good." As a duly appointed member of that club, let me say that an overwhelming percentage of drivers are, apparently, full of shit. Because, with the number of BAD drivers I encounter on any given day, someone out there is just plain lying on that survey. Take, for example, the following scenario...which actually happened to me on the way home today.

See this sign?

This is posted near the on-ramps of virtually every expressway in Michigan. What it says, essentially, is that people who are in the straightaway need to be on the lookout for merging traffic. The implication - correctly so - is that the merging traffic has no manner of stop sign, yield sign, or any OTHER frickin' sign that indicates a cessation of forward motion is necessary. The responsibility falls completely on the shoulders of whomever is moving in the straightaway traffic to either get over, or speed up, or slow down...whatever it takes to allow the merging traffic entrance to the expressway.

So. This is our setup, then:

That's me, in the Vibe. I'm zipping along the entrance ramp leading to southbound I-127. There, in the right-hand lane, is this woman in a minivan. Notice that there's NO ONE in the left-hand passing lane next to her. In fact, once I actually got ON the freeway, I could see that there was no one BEHIND her for at least a mile. Okay. So, does she get over? NO! She DOESN'T! Neither does she speed up, or slow down. She just keeps putterin' along in that lane, and by the time I realize that she in fact ISN'T getting over, I've damn near driven into her as my merge lane runs out. Gah!

Afterward I felt rather bad about the whole thing. I mean, it's not my job to police other drivers. The thing is, I figure that logically there are only three reasons why she didn't get the hell over into the other lane:

1) She didn't see me. I find this irritating and unforgivable, because it implies she wasn't paying attention to the road.
2) She didn't KNOW she was supposed to get over. Even more unforgivable, because it means she doesn't actually understand the law as it applies to the rules of the road.
3) She simply didn't care. This would be the worst of all, because it implies she SAW me, KNEW she was supposed to get over, and instead chose to ignore the whole thing.

At the end of the day, most of us give in occasionally to automotive revenge, based on the perception of a personal injustice. My own philosophical feelings about this are tied up in a loose sort of belief in karma, wherein I try very hard NOT to engage in road rage because I feel like, sooner or later, that kind of thing will come back to haunt me. So, even though I was irritated and my blood pressure was climbing, I tried to put myself in the mindframe of a father-to-be. I realized I wouldn't want my child to witness me being dangerous and vengeful in a couple thousand pounds' worth of steel hurtling down the road at 70+ miles per hour. I quickly left this clueless person behind me and went about my business.

Fifteen miles down the road, I pulled off the highway to get gas. And - wonder of wonders, this bonehead actually pulls up to the pump immediately on the opposite side of mine. A number of thoughts went through my head: I could bitch her out for the crime of Callousness Behind the Wheel. I could take the initiative and actually apologize for forcing her to get over, which would probably put a big fat surplus in my karma bank (it works that way, right?). In the end, I just ignored her altogether and avoided the chance of any kind of souring of the situation. But I had to laugh (inwardly, of course) at discovering that she's probably just clueless. See, she did the thing where you start to pump your gas, and then get back in your nice warm car. DESPITE all the signs to the contrary, warning that doing so could cause a spark of static electricity that would ignite the gas fumes. Here's a short quote regarding this phenomenon:

Four Rules for Safe Refueling:

1) Turn off the engine.
2) Don't smoke.
3) Don't use your cell phone—leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off.
4) Don't re-enter the vehicle during refueling. Static electricity can be a refueling danger.

A study of 150 fires showed:
1) Static electricity can ignite the vapor that comes out from the gas.
2) Most individuals involved had on rubber-soled shoes.
3) Almost all cases involved the person getting back in their vehicle while the nozzle was still pumping gas. When they went back to pull the nozzle out, the fire started as a result of static electricity.

Ultimately, I caught a glimpse of the inside of her car as she got BACK out to put the nozzle back in the pump. Get this: she had one of those 100% polyester blankets on her front seat. So, as if the dry air isn't enough to cause a spark of static all on its own, here she is sliding around on one of the most static-y substances known to man. Rolling my eyes behind my sunglasses, I quickly finished MY fueling and drove away before she turned the local Citgo into a blazing inferno. News at 11.


Blogger L*I*S*A said...

I admit it.

I, too, get back into my warm car while refueling on cold days.

My karma is screwed.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Tess said...

I feel strongly that it is impossible for the "good" drivers to even be known and or recognized due to the stunning display of badness caused by some really bad/careless/wreckless/whatever-the-heck-you-wanna-call-'em
drivers. How can anyone look "good" while being cut off by an idiot driver or while swerving to avoid being hit by an idiot driver?!

By the way, we should also be concerned about bad roads- I ran over a chunk of pavement disguised as a "clinker" (please tell me you all know what I mean by that!). 2 new tires and a rim later, me and my car are fine. NEVER, under ANY circumstance, run over anything, no matter how innocent it may look. Even if you are attempting to look like a "good" driver.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I have not much to add, other than that this post afforded me great hilarity.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

funny post....specially since you are wrong.

As the merge-er, you are supposed to judge the speed of the merge-ee and adjust accordingly.

The merge-ee is supposed to maintain speed and lane, which it seems this woman did.

You misjudged and assumed a right of way that was not yours to assume. Had there been an accident, the ticket was yours my friend... Still think you're in the good driver sector??? or are you one of the boneheads???

Static charge just like you decribed caused a fire in metro area recently. So the woman's a bad gas pumper, not so bad a driver.

it would have been polite for her to get over though.

See...i'm hedging my opinion like any good candidate.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I can't believe I'm leaving another comment, but I have a CPA appointment (taxes! fun!) this morning and no time to be truly productive, so I'm back.

I'm almost certain Mike is right on the letter of the law, but I think part of the definition of "good driver" is accommodating merging traffic whenever possible on the freeway. The only time you would not get over is if the left lane is occupied. Otherwise, getting over a) decreases the likelihood of an accident, because even though the merging driver is supposed to yield, it's harder for him/her to do so than it is for the you, car on the freeway, to change lanes and give him/her room, and b) It's human decency, for God's sake. Does no one attend to that anymore??

10:18 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

You know, given that my opinions about proper grammar usage are almost as strong as my opinions about good driving, my previous comment is particularly shame-inducing.

I'm going to slink away slowly, head ducked down.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

If you think driving is that bad up there, you should try SE Michigan! Especially at rush hour!

5:27 PM  
Blogger sdb said...

I have 2 things to say:

1. Women drivers! (for kat's benefit only)
2. Natural selection will take care of this problem.

10:34 PM  

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