Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The California Four-Wheeled IQ Suck

I don't get it. I've driven in - and lived in - places where the quality of driving is terrible. Driving in Boston is a challenge for anyone with a limited amount of patience. There will be stopping and going and stopping and waiting and stopping and maybe going. Kansas City is split between the Kansas drivers and Missouri drivers. Both hate each other passionately, and both claim the others are the worse drivers. (Kansas drivers are right, by the way.) My last stomping grounds, Jackson, Mississippi, is full of bad drivers. But these are bad drivers of a genial sort. They're the type that don't have licenses, never had lessons, don't have insurance, and probably aren't too familiar with the actual owner of the car they're in. They get by, simply because they know how to aim their car between the lines and move at the same general speed as the rest of the traffic. It sounds easy, doesn't it?

As usual, things are different out here. There is a percentage - and let me point out, a large percentage of the drivers here in So-So Cal that have a sort of mutually destructive relationship with their vehicle. As they approach it, their IQ drops by ten points per step.

It's not everyone, but I'd guess fully one-third of the residents of my part of South Bay are simply terrible behind the wheel. It's not that they drive fast or slow, it's that they can't maintain constant speed. They're like budgies; distracted by anything shiny. They yack on their cell phones (as do most of us - even though there is a state law saying we can't do it), but when they do, they look up at their dome light and chat away like they're at home. I followed a woman last week who seemed to be programming her CD player as she drove. She drifted from the right-hand lane, across the center lane, into the left lane, and shot through a red light. Only when she hit the curb, did she glance up, stop, and then try to reverse back into the intersection.

I can put up with all kinds of lousy driving, but today went a step beyond my limit. With a migraine assault in full-force, I drove to pick up my girl from work. A left-hand turn was called for; generally a challenge around here. I ended up the second car back in the far left turn lane. Ahead of me was a woman in a Range Rover. Next to her, in the second left turn lane, was a young man (younger than me, at any rate) in a long Ford pickup.

Neither of them had pulled up competely to the light. Which meant that neither of them had triggered the turn-signal sensor. So when we should have been able to turn, we couldn't. The two ijits in front of me just sat and watched the lights. Behind me, horns began to honk. Because of the headache, I didn't feel like joining in. Instead, when I saw the woman look at me in her side mirror, I mimed for her to pull up. She didn't.

Instead, we sat there - horns honking and anger growing - as the light changed again, and again we didn't get the turn arrow.

For those of you following along at home, that is two full cycles of lights that we missed, because these two people were too stupid to realize they are supposed to pull up close enough to the light to trigger it.

When the horns began again, I lost all self-control. Headache notwithstanding, I slapped the stick into neutral, yanked the hand brake, and jumped out. I hopped onto the median and stormed up to the Range Rover. Her window was up, but she heard me.

I asked her to move up to the line so the rest of us could go. Perchance she might enjoy the view of the intersection, but some of us have errands to attend to. I was polite.

No, I was not. If F-bombs were real bombs, that intersection would have resembled eight square blocks of Dresden. She squealed her tires and scooted forward. The idiot in the truck actually looked at me, gave me a dirty look, but before he could say anything, I included him in the verbal firestorm; he barked his tires and almost rolled into the intersection.

I'm not proud of this. It was annoying and caused me real pain. My head slammed for an hour following it. It was the first time I'd ever succumbed to road rage, and I'm afraid it won't be the last. I hate the fact that I have quite suddenly discovered an understanding of why someone might just lose their mind in traffic.

Around here, given the choice of road rage or the common-demoninator stupidity on display, I'll take the former.

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