EB: Giving ’em the business!

Brain dumps from the original Bonehead.

Can’t Get Right.

Situation: Driver in Acura coupe fails to signal but otherwise, properly, attempts to move aside and let driver in Ford SUV overtake in the passing lane; Ford driver, anticipating that the Acura driver will do as many other SoFL drivers do, chooses not to wait for a courtesy that often isn't displayed at all and simply goes right to execute the pass.

Remember that Bobbing and Weaving thing I did where I was trying to understand all the nonsensical dipping and dodging that people will paint on the freeways down here in South Florida?  I saw it again on my way home from work last night and, as loathe as I am to admit this, it's actually starting to make sense. 

First things first – since all this was going to take place up ahead I applied the brakes.  Believe me, I could care less about having a great view; I just wanted some extra room to maneuver in case things got ugly.  Have you ever seen that motion a car makes when the driver goes but then suddenly yanks it back into place?  That kind of a snaping/wobbling looking movement, right?  Yeah well when that Acura driver realized the Ford was following them over that's what happened and it's usually a bad thing.  Back in the day, my friend/driving instructor used to tell me "it's all about smooth" and for good reason – jerky movements will disrupt your vehicle's balance and that make you into a roadside decoration. 

Fortunately there was no big bang but the end result is the Acura driver nearly got nailed in the ass for trying to do the right thing.  That was really important – did you get it?  The Acura driver nearly got nailed in the ass for trying to do the right thing.  I used to find it infuriating that these squatters will to go all the way over to the passing lane to pitch camp down here in sunshine land but eventually I just got used to it.  That doesn't make it ok, I just lowered my expectations.  Look, when paying your taxes on time incurs fines, or when pedestrians are safer crossing against a green light instead of with it, shit's pretty fucked up… and though I often focus on the drivers I don't blame them for all this, I blame the police.

"When in Rome", my ass.

-E

May 14, 2006 Posted by | Driving | 4 Comments

Bobbing and Weaving: A Plea For Help.

Ever since moving to South Florida three years ago I began to refer to driving as dodgeball.  Ben Stiller be damned – this isn't about comedy, it's about principle and the longer you drive down here the more you begin to feel that people are actually trying to hit you!

Now, I've got to be careful with broad, blanket statements like that because there are millions of drivers down here and they don't all suck.  But there's so many bad drivers doing so many bad things that I was literally afraid to drive for the first six months that I was down here!  The thing that really got to me was the unpredictability of it all; the best way I can explain it is with a quote from a two truck driver I met the other day: "Turn signals are optional equipment down here."

Now for the backstory.  Back in 2000, me and the boys were making the run from D.C. back to north Jersey and a friend of mine got all riled up watching a driver on I-95 change lanes without signaling first.  Previously I'd thought it was just bad manners but I really hadn't committed enough brain cells to the concept to take it any further than that.  He said it was a pet peeve of his and, with him being a pretty reasonable guy, that got me to thinking 'why would a minor inconvenience, and a seemingly harmless one at that, get an otherwise rational person so pissed off'? 

In spite of the abundance of regulations regarding how a motor vehicle should be operated we are largely left ot govern ourselves out there.  In any kind of thing that has multiple moving parts, some degree of coordination is required to ensure proper execution of task.  Think about the engine in your vehicle – regardless of the fuel, that engine is being coordinated in some sort of way.  Think about your favorite sports team – it doesn't matter what sport they play, they're all trying to work in some sort of cohesive rhythm.  Think about any kind of military unit anywhere in the world.  Coordinated.  Think about what happens when that coordination breaks down in any of those examples.  Blown engines…  busted plays…  wounded soldiers…  badness, basically. 

Put simply, using turn signals gives pedestrians and other drivers the ability to accurately anticipate where you intend to be.  They, then, can make sure that they're not there when you're there, get it?  The faster things happen the less time we have to react to those happenings and the more important it becomes to have this power of anticipation available to us. 

Ok, so on a conceptual level this makes sense but what about applying it to real world situations?  How many times have you waited at an intersection because of the presence of an oncoming vehicle only to find that vehicle turning at the same intersection and you waited because they did not indicate that intention to turn?  What about being on the highway and having to REACT SUDDENLY because someone just up ahead decided that they wanted to be where you were about to go and didn't warn you they were coming?

Here's the part I need help with.  I know that the law says we're supposed to do this and that there are rational, safety-oriented concerns that validate these laws but I also know that a great many drivers only signal turns and lane changes:

  1. when there's a cop right on their ass – except for South Floridians, where the cops will Bob & Weave too!
  2. when they're going to cut you off at such short range that they're concerned you not hit your brakes in time to avoid a collision.

What I'd like to understand, if at all possible, is the other side of this argument.  Is it simply unreasonable to expect someone to use their blinkers when one hand is on the wheel and the other holding their cell phone?  Is it just more fun when the thrill of injury is part of your everyday commute?  Since moving down here I've found what was once a rare occurance is now commonplace; an average of 3.5 in 10 drivers will not warn you of an impending lane change on the highway and that number rises to 5 in 10 on the street!  I don't understand crackheads either but at least they can hide behind their addiction.  Can someone please tell me how to rationalize this behavior? 

-E

April 17, 2006 Posted by | Driving | 2 Comments

Speeding Ticket.

Ever hop in your car to go for a drive and come across someone that pushed the wrong damn button?  Someone to make you wish a cop would just jump out of the bushes and pull them over?  I saw one on my way home from work last night: three lanes wide on the Florida Turnpike and here comes Pokey doing 50mph in the center lane…

Yup.  This one’s going to get ugly.

There’s a couple of different ways to look at this thing: on one hand he’s under the speed limit so he’s obeying the law and therefore all is well; on the other hand he’s basically blocking the center lane while the flow of traffic literally blows by him on both sides at 75mph!  Although Pokey wasn’t speeding he was easily the most dangerous person on that highway.

Let’s define Speed as a parameter – it’s simply an undefined measurement like Height or Size, it can be defined either in relative or absolute terms.  For example, many people I meet refer to me as a big guy but standing in an NFL or NBA locker room I’d surely be considered small.  It’s relative, and speed is the same way.  That which would be considered fast on the street is slow on the highway, and what’s fast on the highway could get you killed on a racetrack.  The terms fast and slow, therefore, can be defined as a combination of what is appropriate for your location and what you’ve been acclimated to.

The term “speeding”, as we’ve come to know it, refers to breaking the law by driving faster than 55mph – the maximum permitted speed as ordered by Congress back in 1974 in response to dramatic energy concerns.  Despite these energy concerns having come and gone the general public still uses this rate as the watermark for how fast they can drive safely – but one thing has nothing, and never had anything, to do with the other! 

If speed alone was a singularly dangerous element then how could Richard Petty, who made his living by driving as fast as possible at every available opportunity, how could he possibly have survived his profession and retired???  There’d be no such thing as a retired race driver because they’d all die in horrific wrecks. 

The danger comes from contrast.  The same way I’d stand out at 5’10 and 225lbs in an NBA locker room (“hey! who let the little guy in?”), a driver doing 35mph on the highway and 70mph on the street would also stand out.  If safety is really your concern then your goal as a motorist should be to fit in, not to stand out by obeying an obsolete 30-year-old rule.  Take a gentle stroll during rush hour amidst commuters running for a train and you’ll see exactly what I mean; slow and safe are not synonyms.

 -E

February 9, 2006 Posted by | Driving | 3 Comments

License to ill.

Ok – if you’re looking for an homage to the Beastie Boys you’re in the wrong place.  This is about a different license to ill; the one every teenager wants, the one you have to present when you’re caught misbehaving, and the one that entitles every adult in this country to be as big of an asshole as they want to…  your driver’s license.

It’s hard to explain but something in us changes.  Something about pleather bucket seats and some faux wood paneling makes Joe Schmo think he’s Billy Badass.  Average Jane thinks she’s The Queen Bee. 

Imagine being on foot; unless you’re unfortunately wheelchair-bound that shouldn’t be too hard to do.  As you walk along your merry way you spy someone running towards you – not jogging or trotting, but sprinting.  I say definetly but it’s highly likely that if you can step aside to clear the path you will.  You are not obligated to but it just makes sense to not be there if you don’t have to, right?  Well here’s the thing – once you go from feets to wheels this, somehow, doesn’t happen anymore.

We’ve all seen it.  You’re motoring along your merry way and someone, for some reason, sees fit to pull out in front of you and block your path.  If it makes sense to attempt to avoid a collision it should make sense to attempt to avoid a collision, right? 

Run that by me again?

Say it out loud and you’ll get it.  Look – if not getting run into is a good idea when you’re on foot why is it suddenly alright when you’re piloting a vehicle?  The vehicle you’re driving invariably weighs more than you do on foot, it is traveling faster than you can and it’s capable of inflicting much more total damage.  This phenomenon is totally illogical until you consider that 1) inside a vehicle you’re protected by fenders and seatbelts and airbags and 2) the law says if one motorist should strike another a great financial punishment shall befall them.

So you’re saying it’s ok for THEM to piss US off because if WE do anything about it, we get punished?  What if I start driving around with a paintball rifle?  How about that!

Uh… your silly rabbit ass will end up shot or incarcerated, that’s what.  It’s a simple equation: Regardless if it’s a feeling of security or a feeling of legal entitlement, people are doing it because one way or another they know they can get away with it. 

Unless you hit something or get caught commiting some sort of dangerous/municipally profitable violation, your driving will be free of legal repercussion.  That little plastic card can be used as a permit to be as whimsically assholic as you please and with your windshield to protect you there won’t be the accountability of getting punched in the mouth.  Happy driving!

-E

October 1, 2005 Posted by | Driving | Leave a comment

Oh, you mean *that* big-assed truck?

OK – so yesterday me and a co-worker went out for lunch and while wolfing down some tacos we had a rare treat: a view of street traffic in South Florida! 

I don’t know if you’ve ever driven there; or better yet had a chance to sit and just watch drivers there interact with one another but it’s damn funny.  This afternoon there was a delivery truck sitting double-parked on a two-lane, two-way street with the blinkers on.  After a few minutes we noticed that some traffic had begun to build up behind the truck but only in that one lane.  The traffic signal wasn’t broken and there was no flow of traffic to pin anyone in, just some jackass wasn’t paying attention and sat behind a double-parked delivery truck for maybe two or three red lights.  After maybe four minutes had gone by she finally realized something was amiss and moved on.

Quite literally no more than a full 60 seconds had gone by before a different car pulled up behind the truck, with a different woman behind the wheel and (presumably) a different cell phone pressed to her ear… in fact the only thing that both drivers had in common was the inability to recognize that the big-assed Pepsi truck with the flashers on wasn’t going to move!

*ahem*

One could assume that both women’s attentiveness was impaired by the cellphones they had pressed to their ears but who really knows, right?  But then it happened again.  A third woman in a third car drove right up behind the truck and did the same thing!  AND, in each case, the driver, upon realizing that the flashers meant “I ain’t movin'” would back up to about 1.5 Mini Coopers before proceeding into the next lane to pass.

ok so what?  three-in-a-row did it… so what?  It still doesn’t prove anything!

Still a fluke?  Ok cool… but then it happened again!  Four cars, four drivers, four phones, no fucking clue what they were doing.  The debate over whether any real evidence exists regarding the effects of cellphone use while driving has gone on for close to a decade now. 

I realize that everybody, even people that are against cellphone use while driving, will eventually want to be able to drive with their cells as needed.  But do it’s proponents, who insist that the negative data is inconclusive, genuinely believe that a lengthened reaction time and diminished attentiveness behind the wheel isn’t dangerous? 

Down here in So.Fla not a single day goes by when I don’t scratch my head while passing another driver and wondering ‘WTF are they doing???’, then, on the way by, see they’re pressing a phone to their ear. 

Somehow, I’m sure that’s not a unique experience.

-E

September 14, 2005 Posted by | Driving | 2 Comments