When I think about it, I have spent a great deal of my life behind the wheel of a car. In the past, I have driven through every state in the union and enjoyed the experiences tremendously. Now, driving anywhere is a hassle. I tried to figure out why it is that I liken this formerly pleasant activity to a case of shingles, and it struck me as I made a right turn at a traffic light yesterday. The answer: Mr. Evans.
Mr. Evans ran a mandatory program at my high school teaching hundreds of kids over many years to drive safely. In those days, we learned on standard transmission. In fact, I have never owned an automobile with automatic transmission. Mr. Evans drilled certain concepts into our heads that have all but disappeared from the knowledge base of the general public. We had to downshift to second gear to make a turn, not clear the corner on two wheels. Directional signals were mandatory, even if no one was around. Stop signs were more than visual suggestions. I am certain his course saved countless lives. Yet today, ask most Millennials and they will tell you Driver Ed was a talking horse.
All this focus on driving is prompted by my recent observation of violations of the most basic rule of the road: Keep right except to pass. This week, I started categorizing drivers on the roads we travel with an eye on the fast lane. Of course, as always, I remain politically correct.
This is the elderly person, usually female, who renews her license every few years by mail, but should have given up driving when she renewed her pledge to save copper for the war effort. She earns her name because her head does not clear the steering wheel, so when you observe her from behind, it appears that a cotton swab is operating the vehicle. Whether she exits a driveway, a supermarket, or a shopping mall and heads for a major highway, she zips immediately into the left lane and maintains a safe 25 mph. She feels safe there because there is never anyone in front of her.
The Old Man with a Hat
This gent enjoys driving more than most. To him, a car is like a recliner. He sits back, puts on a blindfold, and cranks up Rudy Vallee CDs on the Bose. The hat makes it possible to block out the world around him, so he heads for life in the fast lane, flips on that Cadillac cruise control, and locks into 30 mph. Don’t bother flashing your headlights or honking your horn. This rocket man is going nowhere without contacting NASA.
The Young Stupid
This scary creature has several weeks’ worth of driving experience and is ready to maintain his “cool” image. You could be on the autobahn going 50 miles over the limit, but that’s not good enough. No matter what your speed, he is cooler than you. He knows what “fast” means because he got that word right on the high school spelling test. He hits that passing lane at Indy 500 speeds and is on your ass in five seconds. Mr. Evans taught us that a minimum safe distance between cars is one car length for every 10 mph. Ask the Young Stupid and he’ll tell you one car length. Speed is irrelevant because at his age, he can’t tell the difference between “cool” and “cold” (two words he got wrong on the spelling test).
The Work Van Driver
This is the guy with the ladder on top of the van on his way to the next job. Many drivers in this category are actually safety conscious and perform quite well. Yet, there are those who plaster the bumper stickers in several places on their vehicle asking the question, “How’s my driving?” Of course, we all know the answer is “You drive like shit,” but he knows it is his duty to block that left lane with the blazing speed of an octogenarian because nobody can see past him and his painted windows. Besides, if he moves any faster, he might have to work.
This is the person who helps the rest of us realize the right lane is safer than the left. He or she is Diving Under the Influence of a Cellphone. Whether talking or texting, these folks will eventually rap you in the rear, but you figured out that it is better to get rear-ended at 30 mph than 70. Now, you might think this person would check the insurance statistics to discover the odds of an eventual crash, but there really is no need. Today, it is up to you to purchase uninsured motorist coverage so when the fool with minimum coverage at best destroys your quality of life, you will have enough money left over to buy him a new cellphone when he sues you for being in his lane.
The Beauty Queen
This is the woman who envisions her car as a purse on wheels. She is late for work every day, which leaves her only one option – put on the make-up while driving in the fast lane. This takes skill. She has mastered something Mr. Evans never even dreamed about in his nightmares. She is an expert knee driver. It is not easy to manipulate a bristle wand with one hand while applying mascara, holding on to the coffee with the other hand, and using the third hand to occasionally flip the ashes from one’s cigarette, all while cruising the passing lane. Once she learns to steer with her knees, it’s a snap. Of course, on days when the toenails need painting, she offers to drive her girlfriend to work providing the friend operates the brakes.
There are many more examples to discuss. These habits are shared by the young and old and rich and poor alike. Poor training does not make one a bad person. Even our President stays as far left as possible, regardless of the risk. I do not intend to demean these people. They are not totally useless. They can always be used as bad examples.
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