“As the Boots Turn” #3: An Episode of Road Rage (almost)
[cue the music, roll the opening credits, cue the announcer]
We join our intrepid hero as he is headed to dance practice. He approaches his trusty stead, a new Toyota Tacoma named “Tonks” on which he has only made three payments.
Smiling in anticipation of the drive, he carefully buckles up, adjusts the mirrors, looks behind and on both sides before backing out of the parking space, at the edge of the lot of course…we don’t want Tonks to get scratched up!
Approaching the exit to the parking lot, he slows, carefully looks both ways, and shifts into second, thus venturing out into the badlands… …otherwise known as the byways and highways of Dallas/Fort Worth. (Roads, streets and freeways for those who haven’t had coffee yet and didn’t catch the literary allusion!)
Once out of the parking lot and onto the road he immediately encounters that orneriest of the ornery, the meanest of the mean, the rudest of the rude, the Scourge of the South, the nastiest critter in all of the West… a careless, distracted, self-obsessed driver, whereupon we hear our beleaguered hero declaim:
“Oh no she did-uhnt!”
Thus with a shake of his head and a well-timed Quadruple *SNAP* in Z formation, our intrepid hero begins his journey across town…. …only time will tell if he succumbs to base emotions and flips someone the bird along the way.
When Did Inconsiderate Driving Become Routine?!!!!
I’ve noticed a strange thing on the roads over the past couple of years. People are becoming routinely rude, inconsiderate and self-obsessed. Not everyone, of course; one must be careful with generalizations –there are still a range of drivers with behaviors running the gamut from steering wheel gripping beasts in the midst of a road rage episode to those who are friendly, courteous and law-abiding. But on the whole, the percentage of rude inconsiderate nuts on the road is definitely increasing. The ratio is shifting and not in a good direction. For those seeking real research and “just the facts” skip down to the Related Links and Articles section at the bottom of the post.
The rest of you who want some drama along with a chuckle or two, keep reading…
In my last post, “As the Boots Turn…” — Sleep, Stress, and Number Two, I talked quite a bit about the stresses I was under at my old job and their effect on my health.
While I mentioned the stresses on the job, what I didn’t touch on was the commute to and from the job. By the time I got there I was already dealing with a load of accumulated stress from the drive!
I used to love to drive. Then it all changed. Being rear ended three times within six months kinda brought home to me just how closely everyone except for me seemed to be driving to one another on the roads. And how fast they are driving over the speed limit, and how many of them are talking on cellphones or texting, or reading papers, yes, as in reading notes, minutes, agendas whatever is so dad-burned important that they have to read it while attempting to drive at 70+ miles an hour! And then there are the tailgaters.
Sccccccrrrrrrrrraaaaaappppppppeeeeeeeeeee! Uhmmm… pardon me while I pull this soapbox into place. You might want to brace yourself dear readers, my inner diva has tossed her tiara aside, hiked up her satin skirts, put on her butt kickin’ red high heels and is about to go OFF on a topic…. you might want to fasten your seat belts….
You got to wonder what is going on inside the brains of those I.O.R.s “Idiot On the Road” assuming they have brains because they certainly are not using them! Hmmm…let us imagine… [cue the fantasy sequence music]
“I’m going to speed, then when I see that I’m approaching a car in front of me, and closing the distance rapidly, I’ll just ride up on their bumper! Yeah, that’s the ticket. I don’t care if they have nowhere to go because there is a car in front of them and one to the side of them. Doesn’t matter. It is my right to get as close as I want to the person in front of me even if they are following at a safe distance behind the car in front of them. There should be no open space between bumpers! I need to make up that 30 seconds on the road! Get out of my way! You’re in my way! I don’t care if the car in front of you is going the same speed as you are…. move over! I want to ride up on their bumper too! Oh, the kid in the back seat of my car? Not important. The phone call I’m making while tailgating you? Ignore it, like I’m ignoring all common sense.” Oooouuuu is that a new text from Buffy-kins?
[kill the fantasy sequence music]
People on the road are NUTS! Where did they get their license? At the 7-11 on the corner? Mail order? Ebay?
Sheesh, don’t they realize that the laws of physics don’t change because they want to talk on the phone or text! Every time I drive, I now see a wagon train of cars speeding past in the left hand lane with only one or two car lengths of space in between each of them; sometimes with less than a car length between them!. It literally looks as if they are hooked together like those monkeys that come in a barrel. And we all know how that game turns out don’t we?
Today, literally, TODAY, on the radio I heard about a six car pile up caused when Cars #2 through #5 could stop when car #1 HAD TO STOP! I never saw the wreck, but it had traffic backed up from Bedford to 360, just south of the DFW airport, which for those not from the North Texas area is longer than a hoot but shorter than a holler. ;-) Them thar are Texas wurds.
There is a real practical physical limit to how quickly the human eye can transmit data to the human brain and then have the brain command the human foot to hit the brakes. Drive too close and you are now within a physical space where your body LITERALLY can not react to danger or changes in the conditions around you fast enough to make any difference. The faster you go, the further back from the car in front, you need to be. It is called the two second rule. Follow the link. Read it. Use it. It could save your life. All you need is your eyes and the ability to count to two. If you can’t count to two, then you shouldn’t be driving anyway.
Driving to Work = STRESS
My commute to work was a long one. The distance from Oaklawn, where I live, just north of downtown Dallas, to my job in the mid-cities area was 24 miles each way. Roughly 30 minutes door to door or up to 45 minutes if there were any delays in traffic.
In that 24 miles I would literally loose count of the number of times someone swerved in front of me, whipped in behind me, tailgated me, sped past me…well you get the idea. About all of these things, I could do NOTHING other than to continue to drive defensively. And while driving defensively was the safe, prudent, intelligent thing to do, it was also extremely frustrating.
And lest you get this image of me driving like a sweet little granny with a bun who can barely see over the steering wheel, my typical driving speed on the freeway is 5 miles over the limit. It use to be more than that but I’ve mellowed in my old age. Now I just throw my walker at the whippersnappers as they speed past.
But I digress…
I think that people who speed, swerve through traffic, tailgate, who use their cellphones or text while driving, are rude, inconsiderate unsafe idiots who put themselves, their passengers, and the people around them in danger. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should be fined, arrested and forced to do community service!
Which brings me to ANOTHER frustration about the commute. Where the *$%@ are the police? Aren’t there laws that could be applied? I know that speeding is a crime. Is tailgating? Unsafe driving? Driving while distracted? If it is, then they need to put up the “Highway version” of “red light cameras” on the freeways and start raking in the cash! Or get an army of traffic cops out there! The fines alone would not only pay for the extra cops, they would balance every city’s budget along the 183/121 corridor!
But I digress… Back to the tirade!
We need a national organization like MADD targeting aggressive driving. Perhaps it could also be called MAAD — “Mothers Against Aggressive Drivers” Hey, it worked for drunk driving. Maybe it can work for rude unsafe inconsiderate driving. But then again, “MAAD” sounds just like MADD and MADD is already taken…people would get confused about who was madder. Perhaps a catchier acronym… STFUAD “Shut the F*#K Up and Drive!” That should do the trick. Works for me!
For quite some time, I have wanted to construct a cow-pie catapult and mount it in my truck bed. I would use it whenever I see someone on the phone or texting who is tailgating me. At the crucial moment, when I can no longer see their front bumper because they are so close, I’d activate the device and SMACK!, a juicy cow-pie would hit their windshield thus educating the driver as to the poor choices they are making regarding speeding, tailgating, and texting or talking on the cell phone while driving.
Watch for the product at a store near you soon. I’m applying for a patent and I’m now seeking start-up capital! ;-) I just can’t figure out how to reload the device or carry sufficient ammunition; given the number of offenders involved I would soon run out of ammunition–I’d need a bigger truck just to haul the cow-pies. Nonetheless, our team of crack cow-pie scientists are working on the problem.
Lest you think the stress of dealing the I.O.R.s “Idiots on the Road” have caused me to go bonkers and you’re considering calling the guys in the white coats, let me direct your attention to the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival. You can’t make this stuff up folks. Take a peek at their website. Ya just gotta love it.
In all seriousness, I’m tempted, one of these days, to mount two cameras, one facing forward and one facing back and videotape the commute then post it on the Internet so everyone can see how awful and rude these people are when they are driving. Hmmm now that is a money-making idea for a website!
But I digress…
Just How Much Stress is Two Much?
When you mispell “Two” thinking you’ve typed “Too” and you don’t notice until the fourth proof read of the post! That’s when! I’m leaving it there because it made me laugh.
But I digress… ;-) BTW, did you notice that “mispell” is mispelled? Moving on…
I still make that 24 mile drive because the dance studio where I practice is near my old job, but the commute doesn’t seem to bother me as much anymore. I’ve arrived at this conclusion because I’ve noticed a dramatic decline in the impulse to flip off these disgusting no good low life varmints. Don’t get me wrong: there are still speeders and tailgaters and texting-while-driving idiots, but I’m better able to handle those things now.
Why you wonder? I wondered that too. I think it is because my overall stress level is lower and because I’m more rested.
Because the stress of dealing with the drive is not compounded by having to deal with the stress of the job followed by the stress of the drive home, the overall stress load is manageable. All of us have stress in our lives, and we deal with it. The problem arises when you lose your ability to deal with it or when the amount of stress becomes so great that you can’t effectively deal with it any longer. And if you’re tired and stress, you ability to deal with stress is most definitely compromised.
Hopefully the tirade above gives you some clue as to my level of stress just before I lost the job? Hey, it’s been over a month and the topic of these rude drivers still pushes my hot buttons just *thinking* about it! Now, it is kind of funny in a twisted way, but then, it was NOT funny. Not. At. All.
I was not well when I lost my job. I was not healthy. The conclusion is clear: the stress at my old job and the associated commute were severely, adversely, affecting my health! Now, 35 days later, I feel even more rested. I’m feeling healthier every day. I’m laughing more. I feel optimistic and I’m excited about the coming months. Who knows what will happen, but I feel as if I have options and opportunities.
For the first time in over two years, my answer to “Hey Tony, how ya doing” is not “I’m hanging in there.” or “I’m tired.” or “Ok, I guess.”
My answer is “I’m happy.”
[cue the music, cue the sound effects, roll credits, cue the announcer]
As the sun sets on a river of red tail lights crawling at a snail’s pace along the freeway, like the ice floes on the Saint Lawrence breaking apart in the spring thaw, our intrepid hero sits smiling, stuck in traffic, humming along to the radio while visions of two-steppers whirl in his head….
Join us next time on “As the Boots Turn…” when our hero will encounter drugs, depression and medical varmints!
See ya on the dance floor!
Related Links and Articles:
- “As the Boots Turn…” — Sleep, Stress, and Number Two (txcowboydancer.com)
- I lost my job…and turned into a bear…kinda, sorta (txcowboydancer.com)
- A Disaster or an Opportunity? Glass Half Full or Half Empty? (txcowboydancer.com)
- Stress symptoms: Effects on your body, feelings and behavior (mayoclinic.com)
- Effects of Stress (www.stress.org)
- Job Stress (www.stress.org)
- Driving distracted: Dangerous texting and cell-phone use is widespread, our survey finds [Consumer Reports Magazine, April 2011] (consumerreports.org)
- Survey reveals top gripes among drivers: These behaviors drive Americans crazy when they’re behind the wheel [Consumer Reports Magazine, March 2012] (consumerreports.org)
- Aggressive Driving: Three Studies (www.aaafoundation.org)
- Driver Behavior [A collection of articles on various types of Driving Behaviors including Road Rage, Aggressive Driving, and more. ] (www.drivers.com)
- National Safety Council – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month (www.nsc.org)
- Distracted Driving (www.cdc.gov)
- Distraction.gov [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] (www.distraction.gov)
- DrDriving.org (www.drdriving.org)
- Survey: Texting While Driving Getting Worse (www.nbcdfw.com)
- NTSB recommends full ban on use of cell phones while driving (cnn.com)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov)
- The Partnership for Safe Driving (www.crashprevention.org)
- Cell Phone Safety (www.cellphonesafety.org)
- The Two Second Rule (wikipedia.org)
- Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival (www.wiscowchip.com)
- Barbara’s Dance Studio (www.barbarasdancestudio-tx.com)
- New Study Pulls the Blanket Off America’s Best and Worst Cities for Sleep (bestplaces.net)
- Happiness and Subjective Well-Being (positivepsychology.org.uk)