The automobile is one of the pinnacles of technology. Once considered a diversion for the rich, it has driven society to the level of advancement we currently enjoy and has risen to the level of necessity for all income levels. So significant is its place in society that many jobs hinge on applicant’s possession of a car. Without the car, not only would the economy tank, but municipal revenue streams would dry up as registration fees, road taxes and license fees vanish. Governments have whole departments dedicated to regulating the use and possession of a car. Unfortunately, even with all the regulations, restrictions and requirements, many people seem unable to understand the simple concept of how to operate one courteously.
Once was a time when the obtaining of a license required study and practice and testing. When a candidate successfully passed the driver’s exam, it was a cause for celebration. Oh, sure, in the earliest days of automobiles, there were no rules or licenses. My grandmother told the story of how her older brother would—at the age of 14—drive his sisters around the family farm in their father’s old model A. The girls would cling to the doors while standing on the running boards. Such a maneuver today would get all the children arrested and the parents charged with reckless endangerment.
Today, it seems, the once-rigid requirements have gotten lax. Either that, or people are just rude. While driving on interstate 10 this morning, one particular driver of a light-colored Toyota SUV demonstrated the extreme swing of the rudeness pendulum. For those who don’t know, I-10 is 12 lanes wide and literally thousands of cars traverse that artery between the hours of 6 am and 8 am. Even with that many lanes, traffic slows to a crawl in many places so no one in their right mind should expect to fly through at the posted speed limit, let alone any faster.
Well, this morning while heading to work, the traffic was flowing fairly quickly for rush hour. I was actually driving at the posted speed limit and had the recommended 2-second buffer space in front of me. It had just occurred to me that I might get to work early when this SUV came flying up behind me and quickly started riding my bumper. I’m doing between 65 and 70 and this idiot begins flashing his brights in my mirror indicating his insistence that I move over so he can go faster. There was a line of cars in front of me doing the same speed as I was, mind you, so even if I felt gracious enough to give him the lane, he wasn’t going to go anywhere. Besides, there was no room in the next lane for me to get in—and they were going slower in that lane than I was. So, I ignored him—at first. He flashed his lights again. Well, now he’s getting me angry. I slowed down. I pulled into the next lane as if to go around me. I sped up. He got back behind me again. I paced the next lane.
We played this game until I got to my exit, where I pulled over. I had not even gotten my vehicle half-way into the lane when he guns his engine and swerves wildly around me to the left, honking his displeasure as he accelerated. Of course, he sped about 50 feet before slamming on the brakes again for the car in front of him. This was rush hour traffic, after all. There is no shortage of cars in front of you. As I existed, I spied him flashing his brights again.
I had all but forgotten this incident when I left the office. Getting onto I-10 to come home, this F-150 almost drives over me to get into my lane so he can have a better position on the interstate on-ramp. After I passed him, I drive on toward home, noting the police cruiser with the officer texting on his cell phone. Once the traffic spreads out and speeds pick up to posted limits, I’m driving along—minding my business—when a white SUV flies by, cutting into my lane and give me an obscene arm gesture.
Now, look people. If someone is going five miles per hour over posted speed limits in rush hour, they are not impeding you. You are just an idiot for trying to drive so fast in rush hour traffic. Get a grip on yourself and realize the whole world is not about you besting your commute time. There are a thousand other cars sharing the road and those drivers and passengers have lives every bit as important to them as yours is to you.
There should be some kind of metric to measure courtesy, and if a driver’s license applicant doesn’t score high enough on the courtesy scale, they don’t get a license. And if they are pulled over, or involved in an accident, there should be a courtesy-alyser spot test that the officer can give. If you fail, you get a ticket, or your license revoked. Maybe if it is regulated, people will remember what common courtesy is. But then again, maybe they won’t.