Driven to the Edge
There are a lot of things Americans can't do well; color inside the lines, think inside the box, be unhappy for extended periods of time, believe the whole story. One thing we can't do at all is drive.
And its getting worse as there are more of us, more cars, on the same collection of shitty roads.
When I was younger, bad drivers were the ones who could not successfully master a few marginally complicated skills.
-They couldn't parallel park.
-They couldn't merge onto a crowded highway.
-They didn't signal their turns.
-They cut you off in traffic.
Looking back, these are almost nostalgic and innocent flaws in the relationship between man and machine. Here's where we are today:
-Fuck parallel parking, we drive vehicles so big they demand their own ZIP code and we can't stuff those between two parallel lines forty five feet apart.
-I once lived in a state that was so lax in signaling, you just assumed that the oncoming car was going to cross your path. Even today, years later when I have the opportunity to pull out from an intersection with an oncoming car signalling a turn, I still assume he's hung his hat on the indicator light and intends to go straight.
-If there is more than five inches between your front bumper and the rear bumper of the car ahead of you, someone is going to cut in.
Forget about all that too. I was on a divided, 55mph limited access highway last weekend, a few miles outside of the small town where I live, heading out to the country where the population density dwindles down to that of say, Antarctica. Are you with me so far? A big highway in the middle of nowhere on a weekend. The right lane of traffic came to a stop so suddenly that those of us more aware drivers ducked into breakdown and clear left lanes so as not to hit the guy in front of us.
That's right. We now have proven in our nation, that we are not capable of single file in a straight line. That's the part of the driving test that even kids whose pencil erasers suffered from friction burn during math tests pretty much passed.
We phone while driving, text while driving, read the paper while driving, put on makeup and shave while driving and pretty much everthing else while driving except drive. A glance out my rearview mirror once reflected a guy following too closely with a cell phone wedged in the crook of his neck grabbing a coffee. If you've got a danish or a fax to read, I'm taking another fucking road.
And behind some minivan the other evening, at a stop sign, there was a TV playing a kids show to keep the tots entertained because naturally they were in withdrawal from Facebook and Twitter, the XBox was out of reach and God forbid we get through the thirty one minute drive home without the Muppets to fucking talk us through it.
So you wonder why there's road rage with all that out there? Road rage is about as natural as breathing and prosecuting it makes as much sense as pushing a drowning man farther offshore. You're just trying to get from point A to B, surrounded by idiotic behavior that threatens your life and property and you don't have the ability to change the reality in any way whatsoever. Ok Judge, how about I strap you to a couch, put on a Teletubbies marathon and tape the remote to the ceiling. We'll talk in a couple of hours.
At this point, driving is becoming like the weather. It sucks a lot of the time and like the weather according to Mark Twain, we all talk about it but nobody seems to do anything about it. Except for me, who's ready to put my "farthest from any common sense" rules of the road into place. Here's my plan for when I become the first American King of Highways.
-Driver's licenses shall be issued to anyone passing an oral, written and practical exam so rigorous it makes the MCAT feel like a choice between regular or extra crispy.
-Passing scores will not be graded on a curve. In fact, the degree of success you have passing authorizes the maximum class of vehicle you're allowed to drive. If you just get across the line then, my friends I hope you like four cylinder econoboxes with speed governors. On the other hand, if you ace the rules test and get out of a four wheel sideways skid with all tires smoking, say hello to Porsche.
-Hey, you can always take the test again to try to upgrade. This is life, not public school. We assume you never stop learning.
-Highway lanes will be classifed by horsepower. If you're in the far left lane in an '89 Escort with the air conditioner running, you're going to jail.
-Posession of an SUV is a criminal offense. If you need a vehicle that big to carry your stuff, you've got too much stuff.
-Possession of a crossover is also, although offenders will be offered the opportunity to cross back.
-There will be no such thing as a speeding ticket. However, if you fail to signal a turn, tailgate, talk on the phone, text, cut off, pass on the right etc. you will be fined, jailed excommunicated, shunned in public, trash talked about in bars and we may impound your pets.
Because all we really want to do is to bring driving back to its original purpose; getting from A to B easily and efficiently. Not boil the pot to see if the jerks rise to the surface.