I have a complaint. Actually, I have several, but this particular complaint is my favorite. I savor it as one would a fine wine. Like expensive silver, it is occasionally taken out of its little drawer to be lovingly polished and inspected. When I find myself settling into a bland state of happy apathy, I voice the one pet peeve that never ceases to raise my blood pressure and quicken the pulse rates of those around within earshot. Everyone seems to be in agreement when it comes to the subject of: The OTHER driver!
Take the Geritol set, please. How many times have you been stuck behind a vehicle that’s crawling along at 10 miles below the posted speed limit? What is really strange is that the car appears to have no driver. This is precisely what happened to me recently. On a local street in my town, the speed limit is posted at thirty-five miles per hour. The headless driver in front of me is creeping along at 10 miles per hour. Finally, after watching my gas gauge dip from half full to “E” for empty, I pull up alongside the driver at the light. For some reason, what I see does not surprise me. Hunkered way down behind the steering wheel is an extremely old man. He looks like a 99-year-old sun-dried tomato wearing sock garters and a straw fedora. Sitting benignly by his side is a tiny munchkin with blue hair. Both are oblivious to the fact that they are driving so slowly that they might as well be driving in reverse. Murphy’s Law dictates that you WILL get trapped behind these “golden oldies” when you are in a frantic panic to get somewhere quickly. Now, lest you think that our esteemed senior citizens are the only “other drivers” to give us coniptions, let us remember the other end of the age spectrum, Teenagers!
Have you ever noticed that teenage boys seem to share the same hyperactive metabolisms as small, furry animals? The remarkable Chinchilla, which is probably one of the fastest rodents on Earth, is a sloth compared to the reflexes of a teenage boy with a drivers’ license. Observe, if you will, one teenaged youth idling his “Iroc” at a red light. His eyes glaze over as he focuses all of his attention on the traffic signal. His right foot quivers in anticipation as it hovers over the gas pedal. When the light turns green, said youth is already so far away that you would need a pair of binoculars to find him. All that remains to reassure you that you weren’t hallucinating is a puff of carbon monoxide and the lingering scent of “Clearasil”. Jeez…who WAS that masked man!?
Highways are hell. It is always the “other driver” who will break warp speed just so he can pass you and cut you off. Of course, once he is directly in front of you, he decides to slow down abruptly, causing you to nearly slam on your brakes. All of those cute little stuffies that were propped so adorably in your rear wondow will come flying forard, nearly pummeling you senseless, before landing in a heap around your feet. These stop-start manuevers not only increase your car’s consumption of gas, they also serve to increase your vocabulary in very creative ways.
Isn’t it exciting driving behind a car that has no brake lights? It’s like being on a game show called “Grand Slam”. If the driver in front is behind the wheel of the infamous fire prone “Pinto”, and you “Grand Slam” him, you’ll both be whistling the tune, “Ring O Fire”! Since there is no warning for you when the “other driver” slams on his brakes, he shouldn’t feel too insulted when you’re suddenly sitting beside him with your front teeth imbedded in his dashboard.
What are directional signals for, anyway? Nobody ever uses them. Well, I do, of course, but the “other driver” has no idea of their proper function. The directional signal arm is as good as anything else in the vehicle to attach the car’s air freshener from, and to attach the leash for Fido, the family fleabag. I love the way Fido hangs out of the car window when the “other driver” is barreling 75 miles per hour down the Parkway . Without being aware of it, the mutt is performing a valuable public service. By letting his big, drooly tongue flap in the highway breeze, he can scoop up more moths, flies, and Japanese beetles than four of those loud and annoying electronic bug catchers. And the spray that flies out of the mutts mouth, will save you a few pennies off the cost of that expensive windshield washer fluid.
Sunday drives with the family used to be a fun and relaxing event. The New Jersey Turnpike heading North would be wide open and Mom, Dad and I would smile and wave cheerfully at the few folks that we saw on the road. Amazingly enough, they would smile and wave back. Sunday drives were certainly pleasant in those days. I wish that could be said for the terror-filled drive that my boyfriend, Steve, and I recently experienced. It was Easter Sunday, and as to be expected, the roads were jammed. No matter what lane you were in, there was always someone tailgating you. Everyone was in a hurry to get home, and rudeness ran rampant. We narrowly averted two accidents. At one point, I became so frightened that I started to black out in my seat, which caused my boyfriend great alarm. People were driving so recklessly that Steve bellowed, “It’s really amateur hour out here tonight! How did these stupid %@#!$! get their #@##!! licenses!?!?!”
All I knew was that I didn’t wish to become a statistic, and I reached down and made sure my seatbelt was extra secure. For the next hour and a half, all I did was alternately open my eyes and gasp, then close my eyes and pray. I don’t drink, but a double Jack Daniels on the rocks was starting to look more and more appealing. By the grace of God, we arrived home safely, with my sobriety intact. though I do believe that my dashboard plastic Jesus became permanently imprinted in one hand. Thankfully, I kept my sense of humor in the other.
I am learning to accept the dismal fact, that at least around “these here parts”, those leisurely Sunday drives are surely a thing of the past. Who knows? Maybe it’s for the best. We’ve wanted to move out of New Jersey and perhaps this is just the impetus we need to get us to a place where the expression “amateur hour” doesn’t mean highways and byways filled with crazy “other drivers”.