Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Get off my ass

Yes - I said it and not politely. What IS it with people that tailgate? I am not a bad driver. I try to keep reasonably close to the speed limit and hope I don't get a ticket. I stay off the tail of the person in front of me, too. Yet there is always the driver that HAS to go faster than everyone else. They have the obsession of being first and can think of no one else but themselves.
Sure, it's old news but today was an exception. I had my car worked on over the last week which was unnerving enough as I was without transportation for about 5 days. When I hit the gas, it would go but had started jolting or acting like it wasn't getting gas. The mechanic, who I have dealt with for 10 years, said it was probably the air intake thingy (he said it better than I can) and would be about $500 bucks for the part. Once he got into the engine, he said he felt it was just the hoses leading to the filter - much cheaper and easier to repair. There was a delay with the parts but I picked up the car yesterday afternoon and my wallet was thankful that it only cost $200 and some change. Most of the fee was for parts.

Today I headed out to do errands and had to pick up my teenage son at a friend's house. I live in the boonies and the friend lives in another area of the county's boonies. I got on the two-lane highway and was driving 45 in a 50 mph zone because it was pitch black, drizzling rain and I was looking for my turn.

The car started to protest. It was not happy with the two C-notes I just paid. Noooooo! It wanted MORE. It screamed "FEED ME SEYMOUR!" and jerked me around. I hit the pedal to the floor and there was no response. Suddenly, the gas would kick in and my head would fly back like I was hitting G-force. I couldn't find my turn. Dammit. I tried calling the friend's cell phone since my son broke his. (That's another rant for another time). No answer.

I called my daughter. "Where in the hell is the turn?"

"What's YOUR problem? Don't get pissy with me!" She was right. I apologized and took a deep breath. I explained that I had been approximately 5 miles up the road and back and knew his street was around the area, but couldn't find it. Between the dark, the rain, and the car I was at my limit. She gave me a couple of landmarks and I turned around on a side street to search again.

Of course, every time I stopped and changed gears to do a three-point-turn, the car would choke.

Put in neutral, turn the key, put in gear. The car died. Neutral. Ignition. Gas. Gear. Death. AGAIN. I prayed I could hit the gas hard enough to back up without ending up in the ditch or getting hit in the side by an oncoming car. Finally on the main road, I started rolling along at a good clip and thought I'd be alright. BIG mistake. The car is telepathic. EVERY car is telepathic. Without a sound from the engine, I lost speed. I laid the pedal down again but the speedometer continued dropping. I couldn't find the hazard lights. I never use them so why would I know where they are? Did I say it was dark? It was DARK.

Of course, the obnoxious driver behind me in a truck that should be banned for abusing natural resources was riding my ass. If someone is going to get that close to me it should either be 1) an enjoyable and erotic experience or 2) an effort to help me maneuver out of the way. Perhaps he flashed his lights in an effort to light up the inside of my car so I could find the hazard light switch? It didn't work. Instead I was blind. The street I needed was just ahead so I signaled and started turning. Of course, the gas was useless and I didn't move fast enough to suit this guy. He laid on the horn letting me know that someone else on the road was actually more frustrated than I!

There is no consideration and it's not like these problems are new.

My Great-Aunt Violet was quite eccentric, set in her ways but she got around. My mom once met an oncoming car on the road that was being driven by a hat. As she strained to see if a person was under the hat, she realized it was Aunt Violet, her eyes focused in the space between the dashboard and the steering wheel. Around the same time, in the early '70s my sister and I rode with Aunt Violet on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. The main highway hosting beach traffic was a two-lane road near our home. On Sunday afternoons, the northbound lane stayed bumper to bumper. Aunt Violet joined the traffic and assumed the position, letting her hat sit even with the top of the steering wheel. Her car puttered along at what would have been cruising speed in the 1930s. I looked out the back window and said, "Gee Aunt Violet, there sure are a lot of cars behind us."

"Good!" she said. "At least they aren't speeding." She had a commanding presence and there was no arguing with her.

This attitude seems to permiate this side of the family. Her brother was around 6' 3" and a solid, well-built man. He had been a boxer in his day and part of his rugged looks came from having his nose broken several times. He looked intimidating but was a sweet, sweet man. What else would one expect from a man that owned a chihuahua? He had his own well-drilling company and drove a huge truck. One day, at a stop sign, the truck stalled. He was trying to restart it and someone in a compact car behind him started blowing the horn. Uncle Dale slowly got out of the truck and strolled back to the car. The person's window was open, so my uncle put his hands on the roof and stooped down to eye-level with the other driver.

"I tell you what," Uncle Dale said in his slow southern drawl. "You go up and start my truck and I'll sit back here and toot your little horn."

The person sputtered and stammered. Uncle Dale nodded and went back to his truck.

I guess it is days like today that I need to remember the resolute nature of my family, draw on that strength and ignore stupid drivers. After all, assholes tend to adhere to someone's butt.


  1. Oh no Iris, not more C notes!!! But you know, it's the nature of the beast. I see that you had to get it out of your system.

    I have a particular type of tailgating here in North Carolina that annoys me. I actually do not find the tailgating to be that noticeable on regular city streets and roads; however, the highways here are a different matter.

    What I don't understand is how you can be traveling on a three lane highway, with no one in either the lane to your left or right, and yet have someone tailgating you in your lane. I typically start to slow down 10 miles an hour at a time, and they'll still stay right behind you, until you reach 20 mph.

    Believe it or not, someone was once in the car with me when I did this, and I yelled out about the tailgating. She actually provided a semi-plausible explanation. She stated that she felt more comfortable driving in the middle lane, as opposed to the left or right lane, and thus she had a tendency to stay there. Interesting.

  2. When I took driver's ed in school I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher. He constantly stressed defensive driving and that there is no such thing as accidents. And he is right. It's much the same as "no one can make you feel" a certain way. We choose how we respond and how we feel. The same is with driving. Granted, we like to refer to traffic incidents as "accidents" but in every situation, there could have been avoidance. Slowing down for road conditions and weather, looking ahead, paying attention to the road and surroundings, and defensive driving all prevent collisions. Sure we make mistakes so in that sense it is an "accident" but it's a nice way of saying "I screwed up."
    We have an interesting mix of drivers in North Carolina, too. There are a large number of senior citizens driving that are not as responsive as they should be. (I'm not making a sweeping insult to older adults - just choosing not to go into details). There also is a mix of people from northern communities used to driving aggressively and rural residents used to less traffic. When all of these converge in Greensboro it makes for interesting drama.
    As for your tailgater, it's far safer to pass than to stay needless on the heels of the person in front. They just didn't want to be bothered to move and instead wanted you to get out of the way.
    Cars create a steel barrier making people behave as though they are invincible. Take away the car and imagine if we walked around people the way some folks drive cars. We'd be arrested!

  3. We previously had a conversation about the reason for the name of your blog. I was just thinking today that this economic collapse, and the disillusionment of the public in our elected officials, might lead to a "revolution" of sorts in that our citizens might take more responsibility for the future success or failure of this country, instead of leaving it to our supposed leaders.