Good Stuff for YOU

Saturday, September 3, 2011

And now for something completely different

[This blog is not just The Kildaran - good thing, too, as we're rapidly running out of chapters!  No, all along I have planned to have more posts on here, more writing.  So here's something I dug up today from, oh, twenty years ago.  Dusted it off, polished it up, did a little revising - it wasn't easy to read, either, as I had typed it (yes, typed!) using an old manual typewriter!  Wow, how ever did we manage?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.


Have you ever noticed how badly most people drive?
It seems that the average American takes a perverse pride is his or her INability to follow the rules of the road.  For instance, do you know of a law which permits a left on red?  As far as I’m aware, the only circumstance under which this is allowed is the convergence of two one-way streets, with not contrary traffic.  Otherwise, strictly verboten.  And yet, there are plenty of drivers out there who follow this figment of their imaginations dutifully!
Consider, too, the driver who tailgates.  And I don’t mean ‘I’m going to follow behind you and match your every move from forty feet back’.  No, the driver I’m talking about is so close to your bumper you can count the hairs coming out of their ears; so close you can’t see their bumper in the rear view mirror; so close you can smell their double sweet grande mochaccino.
Another favorite is the driver who thinks he (and it’s almost invariably a ‘he’) can drive over me.  Excuse me, I know I’m in a small, low car, but the model isn’t called ‘Speed Bump’!  Then there’s his antithesis, who believes that the posted speed limit is the absolute maximum for this road under optimal conditions, and should only be attempted by professional drivers under controlled circumstances.  And, since they’re not a professional driver, nor are these optimal conditions - let’s face it, when are they ever? - then there is simply no way they will attempt to reach that limit.  Even if pursued by all the demons of hell.
What about those particular idiots who activate their turn signals a half mile, and four blocks, before they actually turn?  You’re driving behind them, not wanting to pull around to pass them, irritated and impatient.  You’re mentally cursing them for driving, and cursing yourself for choosing this particular stretch of road.  Finally, you realize, after they’ve passed four or five potential turns, that they’re not actually going to turn after all, and you pull around them to pass - just in time to hit a semi head-on.
A related subspecies are those who have never quite grasped the concept of ‘left’ and ‘right’ - kindergarten wasn’t a success for them, apparently.  It’s rather disconcerting to have the car ahead of you signal left, slow down, then suddenly turn right, just as you begin to creep around them.  Occasionally, on multi-lane roads, they outdo themselves, and turn ACROSS the traffic that had hoped to get past them.
Finally, in the species signalus abusus, are those who simply don’t use them at all.  Ever.  I don’t know if this is due to some odd religious injunction against their use (Thou shalt not signal)?  Perhaps their arms are too short to reach the stalks?  I suppose they simply might not have noticed that the lights have burned out; after all, there’s never a cop around when you need one.  Then again, with the GPS units doing most of their thinking, maybe they just don’t realize they need to turn, especially if the music is too loud to hear the, ‘In point two miles, turn right onto Smith Road… In five hundred feet, turn right onto Smith Road… In one hundred feet, turn right onto Smith Road…  Turn right onto Smith Road… Recalculating…  Recalculating…”
Another misused set of lights are the headlights.
Some drivers don’t use them at all.  Even at night.  Now, I’ll admit to some admiration of their technical skills in managing to disable their automatic running lights.  It seems, though, an awful waste of time.  Then again, maybe their confidence in their night vision, roadside lights, and the skills of the other drivers to avoid them is so great as to make the point moot.  Fine, fine.  Just don’t drive on my roads!
Another group uses their parking lights only.  Perhaps their alternators are weak and can’t run everything?  Or maybe they have a philosophy, ‘It is more important to be seen than to see.’  Personally, I agree: when I see them, I can get way off to the side!
Then there are drivers who only use their high beams.  Okay, mechanical failure, I get.  You don’t want a ticket for having a headlight out so you run with the brights.  Heck, I’ve done that a couple times.  But, and here’s a hint: headlights are CHEAP and EASILY REPLACED!  And if you’re driving with the brights because it makes the road easier to see?  That’ll be great comfort to you, I’m sure, when I slam into you head-first because my eyes have been burned out of their sockets by your lights!
Fog lights.  Great invention.  Get the light down low, make it powerful enough to penetrate even the densest fog.  Brilliant!  But, people, they aren’t meant to be used when there is no fog!  In case you didn’t notice, they’re nearly as bright as high beams!
Finally, light bars on trucks.  Okay, stay with me on this: most trucks are taller than regular cars, so their headlights are higher up and therefore able to throw their light farther, theoretically increasing the distance they can see.  Many trucks also come with fog lights.  So why in the name of all that is holy do you need ten thousand watts of light mounted on a rack above the cab??  Unless you’re planning on going hunting by blinding the deer (a trick that is ILLEGAL, by the way), what’s the point?
The abilities, or lack thereof, of drivers also varies from state to state.  I’m sure that everyone feels that THEIR drivers are flawless, and all the BAD drivers are those from ‘away’ (as we tend to say here in the Frozen North).  But, I’m terribly sorry to say, not every state produces flawless, shining flowers of driving excellence.  I can’t speak to every state, of course, but some that I’ve observed:
Growing up in this state, I had a first-hand and very vivid driver’s ed.  The average driver is, well, a borderline psychotic, devoted to causing the maximum carnage on the interstates each and every day.  “Nothing like a three-car accident to start the day!” is the unofficial motto - their official motto is simply, “Kill!”  Weaving in and out of traffic, slamming on the brakes and then flooring it at random intervals, playing ‘Tag’ with State Police and winning: these are just a few of their most endearing traits.
The roads produce different types of drivers, too.  Those who frequent the I-91 may be the most predictable: fast, faster, fastest!  Very little weaving, just speed.  The guys from Top Gear ought to see what a Zonda can do there!  The Mass Pike requires almost preternatural awareness of police speed traps, quick reactions, and serious investments in brake shoes and pads.  Ninety to fifty in zero point two!  But the very worst roads also produce the most dangerous drivers: in and around Boston.
It is a common misconception that the roads in Boston were laid out by following wandering cows on their way to and from the Boston Common each day, back in the Seventeenth century.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  In fact - and if you go to the Department of Transportation’s main office on Trumbull Street you can see it - the reason Boston streets are laid out as they are is purely a result of a pact with the devil himself!  All the additions - the 128/95 Corridor, the 495 Bypass - are simply belated reactions by beleaguered Puritans to contain the infestation.  As a Bostonian I know has said, “Why do you think they call them ‘bumpers’?”
There are three common ways to get a driver’s license in that state:
1) having Uncle Ernie bring one home from his job at the DMV;
2) saving up Proofs-Of-Purchase from boxes of Froot Loops; and
3) giving large sums of money to the most demanding charity in the state: the Legislature.
I will admit, though, that Connecticut certainly has the most disciplined, most regimented points system for licenses.  Consider these examples:
“Mother with three children under 5 45 points
With one in a stroller +10
With two in a double stroller +25
In the street -15
On the sidewalk +5
In their front yard +20
In their back yard +50”
(From Driving To Win: A User’s Guide, ConnDMV Press, Volume 7, page 187)
The problems in Maryland start with the roads.  There are two basic types: perfect police speed traps (mile upon mile of straight open highway) or perfect deathtraps (narrow and curving, poorly lit, with exits and entrances approximately every three hundred yards).  Add to that the road conditions, which range from bad (frequent cracks and potholes) to worse (occasional unbroken stretches) to execrable (CLOSED - DETOUR).
You can find road conditions like that anywhere, I hear you say.  True, very true.  But what you can’t find are Maryland drivers.  You see, they’re so proud of their deep British roots that they will drive on the opposite side of the road.  Even their highway speeds are reversed.
In most states, whatever the actual posted limit is, the actual speeds are suicidal to the left, deranged in the middle, and slightly addled to the right.  In Maryland, as a courtesy, they’ve reversed that.  First, it allows you the opportunity to see just how well you car can still accelerate, as you need to be doing ninety when merging onto the highway.  Second, they don’t want people to be uncomfortable driving their roads if they’re not used to it, so they’ll kill you straightaway and save you endless minutes of terror and torment!
Finally, a brief word about certain state police.  Now, I have nothing against police - they serve a useful and unfortunately necessary purpose in society.  How often have you wished for a cop when you were just passed in a residential no-passing zone by some maniac trying to qualify for next week’s NASCAR race?  Or been on the opposite side of the road while the same maniac is passing someone else - and is in your lane fifty feet from your bumper?  And why can’t the police obey the same limits as everyone else on the road?  Yes, you can go faster, that’s why you have the flashing lights, to get to emergencies.  But if I’m doing sixty-five, why are you passing me doing eighty-five?  On the right?
They must all be from Maryland.


  1. Hmm, you haven't driven in Michigan, I guess. In Michigan, as you cross the border into Michigan, they assign someone to tailgate you. Apparently, people from the Motor City get nervous if they can't see an auto immediately behind them.

  2. Well; in Texas if the cops have to pass you on the right they are required to call another cop to come write you a ticket. State law says that you are to stay in the right lane EXCEPT to pass. Although lately with the reduced budgets for most cities, counties and state troopers it hasn't been nearly as bad. Unless you are from out of state.