Having recently made several long road trips through the glorious state of California, I feel entirely within my rights to write the following post. Consider me, if you will, an authority on the subject of interactions with Nitwit Drivers.
To start, I’d like you to pay careful attention to the phraseology that I will be using. If at any point you find yourself thinking, “I do that. What’s wrong with driving like that?” then you are the aforementioned Nitwit Driver and you need this post more than others reading it. Truly.
We’ll begin with the obvious. The car is still parked. You unlock it, climb in, and before you start the engine, check to make sure all doors and the trunk (“boot” for you UK readers) are shut. If you’ve left the trunk open and begin driving, it will bob up and down incessantly, annoying other drivers and alerting them to the fact that you’re an idiot. This fact will become even more glaringly obvious as the lightweight items in your trunk (which you’ve blissfully forgotten about) are lifted up by wind and strewn all over the road, other windshields, etc. Other than the fact it’s littering, you can cause accidents. If you’re moving items and they are in your trunk, it is YOUR responsibility to see that the trunk closes as much as possible and is then bungee corded down for safety. We don’t need your great-aunt Ellie’s sewing machine hopping into the road, causing a 40-car pile-up during rush hour traffic.
Now, start the engine and put the car into reverse. Please remember to look not only into your rear view mirror, but also your side mirrors, and, here’s an idea, turn around to make sure that there are no pedestrians or cars about to come behind you. Contrary to what you were brought up believing, the world does not revolve around you, and we didn’t get a press release itemizing all your movements this day.
Once safely backed up, put the car in forward motion at not only a safe speed, but one that everyone else is also driving at. For instance, do not pull onto the freeway (motorway for you UK readers) going 40 mph. I’m constantly amazed by people who do this. I assume they do so because (1) they can’t be bothered to push their foot any harder on the accelerator (2) they’re too short to reach the accelerator (3) they were unaware what an accelerator was (4) they’re busy applying their makeup (5) they’re eating their breakfast (6) they’ve just spilled coffee down their pants, or the all-inclusive (7) they’re a Nitwit Driver. When you pull onto the freeway, it is YOUR responsibility to do so while paying attention. That means when you see that little volatile red-head in the shiny blue car behind you spewing vitriol at your trunk, you’ve done something wrong. You need to go the speed limit. Yes, it’s the “slow lane” but it’s not the “stop and root around for the mascara wand you just dropped down your bra” lane!
And speaking of the “slow lane” – for those of you who are ignorant of this information, let me draw your attention to the adjective in that phrase: “slow”. It’s the “slow” lane. As in if you’re a slower driver, that lane is made expressly for you to stick to the speed limit in. It’s not “slow” as in “I can go 30 if I want”. Once again, safety, people. The speed limit on most stretches of California freeway is 65. This means if you’re in the slow lane, feel free to go 65. Hell, I’ve seen people still stick to 55. Whatever floats your boat, but keep it in THAT LANE. Do not, I repeat, do not drive below the speed limit in other lanes and then refuse to make way for other drivers. The way I see it is there is a “slow” lane and a “fast lane” – ergo the lanes in between move up exponentially in speed until they reach the fast lane. This means if you’re insisting on driving 60 in the middle lanes, you’ll have angry people behind you. Yes, that’s what it means when they come zooming up behind you. Believe me, they’re not that close to your bobbing trunk to see what fabric your Grandma Ethel had on that 30-year-old sofa cushion you’re hauling around. On 2-lane roads (such as many sections of the 101 Freeway) there is a slow lane and a faster lane. If driving even slightly higher than the posted speed limit is terribly disconcerting for you and gives you sweaty palms, please do not wait for an engraved invitation to realize you belong in the slow lane. Feel free to move over and linger there all you’d like.
In “stop and go” traffic, pay careful attention to the cars in front of you. It’s really in the title, isn’t it? “Stop AND Go”. You will stop (most likely suddenly) and then eventually you will go. Brake, and then accelerate. That’s why you have those foot pedals down there. If someone wants to come in your lane under the misguided belief that your lane is somehow that much faster than their lane, just let them. Don’t speed up and try to be a jerk. We’re all stuck in the traffic.
When driving alongside someone, don’t keep looking over and sticking to their side like glue. Men, I’m talking to you. The last thing I want to see is some guy driving alongside me on an open stretch of road for any length of time. It’s creepy. Go away. When I slow down or speed up, don’t follow suit. I’m trying to tell you that you’re acting like an idiot. I’ve no interest in playing cat and mouse games with you – this goes out especially to the gentleman in the black convertible Porsche Carrera Turbo northbound on the 101 Freeway through Hollywood last Saturday. Um, no. Not in a million years…
You are not special. You cannot drive or pass people by going in the emergency lane. Again, it’s pretty much in the title: Emergency Lane.
As a special insert into this blog, even though this has already been posted, I include a comment from @Stephsamps who wanted me to remind all of you to not get up her a** while she’s driving. She’s not appreciative of it. I must admit, I am not appreciative of it either. In fact, it is reminding me that while I’m driving in the car pool lane (which, let’s face it, is a bit of a free-for-all as far as speed goes) I do not appreciate you racing up behind me going 95. There is nothing I can do until the lines are no longer double-yellow and I can get out, allowing you terrorize the next person in line . In the meantime? Yeah, back the hell off my bumper. K, thanks.
For surface streets, I have several driving tips. For instance, if your intention is to make an immediate right hand turn after the left turn you’re about to make, why the hell aren’t you in the proper lane? Now, see, we’re both in the left hand turn lanes. There are two lanes which turn left. Yes, two. That’s why my blinker is on. That’s what that shiny yellow light is. It’s not on for fun or to look pretty. It’s called an indicator for a reason. I am in the more right of the two left hand turn lanes, but I am indeed turning left. That means when the signal turns green, I will begin to turn left alongside you. It is my choice to continue to drive straight or make the next right. I have this choice because I wasn’t an idiot and chose correctly which lane to be in, entirely aware of where I was. Yes, I pay attention to lights, other drivers, roads, etc. You, on the other hand, presumably do not since you will suddenly jab on your accelerator, speed up, and attempt to (a) cut me off or (b) make me slam on the brakes, making way for you. But, see, your nitwit driving habits were already clear to me when I looked over at the signal and saw you holding your cell phone and eating a burger. This is why I sped up and got away from the accident you will surely cause.
Stop signs are there for a reason. Feel free to stop fully at them. This allows other people to go. How polite the road system is. My turn, then your turn. How remarkable.
Do not throw items out your window. It’s littering. For you smokers, hi, yes, this is Southern California. We have lots of fires here because it’s very arid. We’re basically a desert on the ocean. So, don’t throw your lit cigarette out the window! It starts fires. Presumably your car came with a built-in ashtray? Try using it. (And, on a personal note – I don’t smoke. I don’t care to smell your smoke. Yes, that’s right. Driving behind or beside you means your smoke comes in my car’s filter. Why not just roll up your windows and drive with it all inside with you? Mmm. Yummy.)
When driving at night and there’s oncoming traffic, do not use your brights. We can’t see. When we flash our lights at you, we’re not doing so to say hello.
Do not use your windshield wiper fluid when there are cars immediately behind you. Some of us may have just had our car washed. Yes, what you do in front of us does affect us. You’re not in a bubble.
Parking lots are not roadways. There is no reason to drive like your foot’s gotten stuck on the accelerator. Slow down. People are walking with their children through them.
If I’m in a lane in the parking lot and my indicator is on, yes, it means I saw that parking space and I’m indicating that it is my intention to pull into it. Again, I’m not just playing with my shiny lights. They’re there for a reason. Do not then throw your hands up in the air as if you’ve never seen someone park before. Go find your own parking space.
Once you are parked, please check to make sure you’re not over the lines on either side of you, and are not taking up two parking spots. You are not special. Your car is not special. People will not appreciate you thinking that because you’ve spent a wad on your vehicle choice that it’s your divine right to have more than one parking spot. It doesn’t work that way. If your car is that special, keep it at home and walk.
This concludes this edition of How to Drive Your Car.