How to Change Lanes

I’ve been driving for a very long time, but I’m still learning new things. By studying other drivers, I’ve learned the proper way to make a right turn on red, how to text and drive, how to be courteous to other drivers, and how to eat pretty much anything while driving. I’ve studied all the controls in my car and my truck and many of them are the same. Even when I think I know what something does, I can still be amazed to find out it can also do something else.

There’s a skinny little lever on the left side of the steering column that make the lights blink. If I push it down, it makes a little green arrow pointing to the left, blink. If I push the lever up, a green arrow pointing to the right blinks. Once when I was playing around with the lever while parked in front of a shop window, I noticed that in addition to the little green lights on my dash blinking, it also made an amber light on the front of the car blink. I turned the car around to see the reflection of the back of my car in the shop window, and sure enough. . . BAM! A red light on the back of the car blinks too.

This feature on its own turned out to be amazingly useful. For years, I’ve used this lever to communicate my intentions to other drivers. When I wanted to turn left, I’d push the lever down and the lights on the left side would tell them what I was going to do. But, there’s more to it. I just learned today, that the lever has magical powers. Repeatedly during my drive today, I noticed drivers near my car—in fact very near to my car—used the lever to create a space for their car. It’s so simple!

I noticed the driver of the Honda Accord to my right reach for the magic lever and push it downward. Even though there was no space for the Accord in front of me, somehow, the lever created space, and the Accord appeared directly in front of me. I felt the gravitational forces on my face as the Accord slid in front of me. The effect was so strong that it caused a bag to slide off my seat, and my coffee to slosh against the lid. The seat belt anticipated the gravitational disturbance and tightened against my shoulder. And then the red light blinked.

It happened again with a GMC Yukon, and then again with a BMW 530, and again with an F-250 filled with plumbing supplies. Damn! All this time, I’ve been doing it wrong. When I’ve been on the right trying to get into the left lane, I’ve used the lever to make the lights blink. Sadly, nothing seemed to ever happen. They’d just blink, and blink, and blink, and no space would open up that my car would fit into. It seemed that the longer the lights blinked, the more the other cars would close up any space that even came close to the size of my car. But now I know.

Tonight on my way home from work, I tried the new trick. I pushed the lever down, and before the little green arrow even lit up, I cut the wheel to the left, and my car was magically inserted into the left lane. At that moment, I learned that this maneuver also causes headlights to flash, and sometimes horns to sound, which I think signifies a successful lane change. So I tried it again, and again. It worked every time! Many of the drivers waved their hands, cheering me on. It was SO invigorating. I can’t wait for the drive to work in the morning.

Drive safely, my friends.


Hungry, Hungry Hyundai

ElantraAs you all probably know, (You do all subscribe to my blog, right?) I have been known to stop at Chick Fil-A just about every morning for coffee. It’s really preparation in case I run into traffic, which only starts the second I leave my house. If I have time, I will go inside for a spicy chicken biscuit. I must go inside to eat a CFA sandwich, because their biscuits, delicious as they are, tend to explode into a cloud of crumbs when you bite into them. You should know that my car doesn’t do crumbs.

When it was McDonald’s—and I don’t stop there much because their coffee always tastes like cigarette smoke to me—I could get a Sausage McMuffin, and if I was in a hurry, I could grip the sandwich by the wrapper (much as a migrating sparrow might grip a coconut by the husk) and munch the last couple of bites while driving the back roads of Great Star Drive, carefully calculating my last bite to be finished before turning onto the wild and crazy Rt. 32. McDonald’s doesn’t tend to put things on their breakfast sandwiches, like the ½ cup of mayonnaise, 93 pieces of chopped onion, and 13 pickle slices that they put on their lunch sandwiches, all ready to squirt onto my console.

But, not everyone has the same high standards as me (That should probably be “same high standards as I,” but that sounds stupid). I’ve seen many people on the roads who have highly developed multi-patella-dexterosity, aka, the ability to use both hands and steer with your knees. The left hand is to hold the sandwich, and the right is for holding the steering wheel, phone, cigarette, dog, lipstick, or stickshift (depending on your preference or bad habits), leaving your right foot to accelerate wildly while steering with your left knee. Believe me, this is WAY harder than it sounds.

I have seen women applying makeup in the sun visor mirror (which is wrong on a couple of levels), and a guy shaving with an electric razor. I’ve seen dogs in laps, their heads sticking out the open driver’s window. But the strangest thing I’d seen until today was a guy eating a piece of cake. With a fork. Off a plate. On the highway. I can’t even imagine trying that without scraping the paint off the Kenworth T680 semi in the next lane. What’s worse is, he was so nonchalant about it. The plate was level, he was probably steering with his knee, and every once in a while, the fork would stab a piece of cake and he’d gulp it down like Augustus Gloop turned loose in Wonka’s factory.

Tonight though, on the way home from work, there was the Hyundai Elantra in the next lane. The lady behind the wheel was talking to the little microphone in the roof of her car, even occasionally waving her right hand around like she was trying to dry her nails (Okay I haven’t seen that one yet). But in her left hand was a ginormous, completely peeled orange. She took a bite. There was a lot of traffic, so we passed each other several times over more than five minutes, a couple of miles, and every time, there was the orange. A couple of bites taken, but most of the orange was still there. She’s probably on her sofa right now, watching reruns of the Golden Girls, talking to her sister Amoeba on the phone, gripping that stupid orange in her left hand.

All I could think about while we passing each other was that juicy, sticky, nasty orange leaking all over the seat and the carpeting, juice getting all over her hand and running down her arm, little droplets dripping off her elbow and oozing into the power window controls. I imagined her in front of me at Chick Fil-A the next morning trying to buy her coffee, handing the cashier a handful of sticky money through the open door because her window no longer works. And that’s when it dawned on me where I went wrong. I should have hit the horn and put the window down and yelled, “Gladys! Yeah, you in the Hyundai! Eat that damned orange!”

Coexisting with Civility

ChooseCivilityLet me explain what prompted this post. It’s been a few months now, but it’s something I saw on my way to work that made me laugh. I had just taken the exit from Rt 100 east onto I-95 south, and was approaching the ramp full of cars blending in on the ramp coming in from Rt 100 west. People began doing what people always do in this situation—they started to protect the little piece of road reserved just for their vehicle. They won’t let you in, because then you get there 20 feet before they do. They have the right of way. It’s their road, damn you.

I know this rule. Of course I know this rule, because everybody knows this rule. I have even, on occasion, enforced this rule. Stupid, I know. Childish, for sure. But, what can I say. You’ve done it too, haven’t you? Uh-huh. . . Anyway, on this particular day, I was being very patient. I had coffee, and there was a good song on the radio, and I was happy. A Jeep flew past me on the left, and then tried to pass the van that was in front of me, and that’s what set them off. The two vehicles inched closer and closer together, nearly trading paint, waiting for just the right moment when the more brazen of the two could floor it and merge recklessly onto I-95 ahead of the other. Victory!

Absolutely, it was fun watching this contest. But the very best part, by far—by a country mile—was their choice of bumper sticker. The Jeep had one of those “Choose Civility” stickers, and the van had a “Coexist” sticker. Priceless.

But you know, it got me thinking about traffic etiquette. There is an intersection of two roads that qualify as “the back way” to work that a lot of people use. Two of the streets feed a lot of vehicles into a four-way stop. Your turn, his turn, your turn, his turn, your turn, MY turn. But at this particular intersection, the traffic moves more efficiently than at a roundabout. I just have to slow down a bit, nod at the guy in the Toyota Tacoma, and go. Smooth.

Want to mess that up? Add a Honda Accord coming the other way from one of the other two stop signs. That’s when the trouble begins, because now a nod is insufficient. Now, you have to make eye contact. Is he nodding to me, or the other guy? No, wait, he’s just checking to see which way I want to go. So you want me to. . . oh wait, now he’s looking at the Accord. I look too. That driver’s looking at the radio. Now, Tacoma nods to me, and I take the signal and go. NO STOP. Geez, are you gonna go now? I flash the lights. Tacoma starts through the intersection. Accord missed him by inches. Sigh.

Now, we’ve all suffered through driver’s education or the written test, and we know the car on the right has the right of way. So here’s the start of a joke. “Four cars approach a four-way stop at the same time.” Which one of those cars is on the right? All of them! Bing! Bing! Bing! Who goes first? The pickup truck, that’s who.

Here’s why. The gentlemen in Buick behind the super dark glasses is focused on performing the perfect stop, signaling the turn and waiting for the blinker to blink sixteen times before deciding whether it’s safe to proceed. Nissan minivan is waving her hand like she’s swatting flies. She’s hoping that every other driver will go before her, leaving the intersection perfectly empty for her to safely pass. The lime green Civic has vaped inside with the windows up, and now he can’t see out the windshield or past the extra-large brim of his DC hat pulled down over his eyebrows.

The F-250 hits the accelerator, the truck rocks to the right, black smoke rises from the 10-inch diameter smokestack protruding from the center of his truck bed. The roar of the diesel engine scares the kids in the back of the minivan. The other three will still be waiting at the stop sign five minutes later.

Drive safely, my friends.



Breaking the Law

Okay folks, so two things happened this week. The first is that someone told me that they had read my blog. It took a few days for this to register, but I suspected it might be true.  I wonder when I last updated that blog. Let’s just say it’s been a while. The second thing is, that I realized that I tend to write about driving a lot, probably because I spend many hours each week driving. The third thing is, that when I’m driving, I feel like it’s my civic duty to point out examples of sub-par driving, and that is to say, driving that is not up to my very high standards. I’m an expert you know. I’m also an expert at cooking, ballroom dancing, structural engineering, American Ninja Warrioring, and singing. I kimagesnow, three things. Let it go.

But this breaking the law thing . . . When did our state decide that drivers were incapable of turning left? It happens slowly you know. You’re not supposed to notice it, until one day . . . that’s right . . . your steering wheel only turns right. On my drive home, which is always where these revelations hit me, I have noticed a surprising number of rebellious drivers who are standing up for their rights! I mean lefts. New shopping centers and housing developments have popped up along Rt. 32, my favorite road in the whole world, and the only way to legally turn into these developments is to be traveling in the other direction so you can turn right. It’s the rebellious ones who say, “Screw THAT!” and turn left anyway, heading up the wrong lane to get to their damn house. Hell. Yes.

You can see it coming too. The car in front of you slows down approaching the Sporkbill Estates entrance. He can’t signal his turn. That would be crazy, right? But he sees the approaching traffic. He quickly scans for any traffic coming from the estates. No police cars in sight. And you see it coming. There’s a gap ten car lengths long in front of him, and in the opposing traffic, the lane opens up right after the blue Camry. He goes for it. He floors it, slipping across the road, in through the out lane, and on to freedom.

But if you don’t like seeing these lawbreakers, go on and take a back road. But when you do, tell me how many roundabouts you have to weave through. One more than last year, right? Uh huh. Now which way do you drive in a roundabout. Boom! To the RIGHT! Where do you think you’re driving, pal, in the United frickin’ Kingdom? Just stick to the program, buddy.

So the next time you’re contemplating taking that left turn, well . . . you’d better just think through those actions and the consequences that go with them. Or at least make sure there’s not a police car in your mirror for cryin’ out loud. The law is there for a reason—to protect people from doing stupid things. Two wrongs do NOT make a right. Three rights, however, make a left.

Drive safely, my friends.



There’s Bound to Be a Story Behind This

Giraffe on the HighwayMy drive down Route 32 each morning is often eventful, usually tedious, and sometimes there’s just crazy stuff. It’s a major roadway, so as with any major roadway, there are often critters who just weren’t fast enough to outrun one of the vehicles.

Deer seem to be the most cocky. “I can beat that thing,” they think. But they’re usually wrong. About a year ago, one who must have been especially bad at timing his entrance to the highway, smashed into the door of the Lexus in front of me, showering the driver with glass and crushing her door. The deer? Yeah, he didn’t fare well. But in addition to the deer, I’ve seen raccoons, foxes, vultures, and heck. . . I’ve even seen a small black bear once, adorning the shoulder of Rt. 32.

But today was the strangest. The first thing I saw appeared to be a very small deer, which wouldn’t have been at all unusual, except a hundred yards down the road, there lay a giraffe. Another hundred yards, a small bear. And then a hundred yards later, a large yellow emoji (I couldn’t tell whether it was still smiling). You’ve probably figured out that these were stuffed animals. Well, and a stuffed emoji.

So what’s the deal with that? The first thing I thought of was that the Eggman Movers truck from Toy Story was somewhere in front of me and the animals were escaping. I was being extra careful just in case RC was zooming up behind me trying to catch up to Woody and his friends.

Then I thought, well that’s silly. It was probably a pickup truck full of boxes of stuff, and the lid from the stuffed animal box blew off and animals were bouncing out along the highway. I was sure the driver’s wife had told him to tie the boxes down so the lids wouldn’t blow off. I imagined the driver telling his wife that she worried too much, and that there’s no way the lids could blow off. She looked at him, the way wives really look at their husbands when the husband is absolutely confident that they’re not about to make a big mistake. Before you say it, no I . . . okay, yes, I’ve been in almost exactly this situation. Never mind that!

But, what I decided to believe was this—there were two kids in the back of a Tahoe, the older boy (they must be boys) was sitting by the open window, and he was tossing his little brother’s toys out the window. Yes. That’s my final answer. I have no proof of this, but I watched intently the right side of the Tahoe in front of me hoping to see the stuffed projectiles arcing toward the shoulder. But, I didn’t see that at all. Not for real, anyway. In my mind, I imagined seeing a stuffed Olaf, a Mickey Mouse, or maybe Mom’s purse launched out the window. This is how I make this drive bearable every day, pardon the pun.

Potty Humor

We have had indoor plumbing in our country for about 150 years. Suffice it to say, the plumbing we have today should work pretty darned well, don’t you think? For the most part, it actually does. The plumbing in my house works just like it’s supposed to. Turn the handle, out comes water. Easy. Peazy.

So why, then, does the plumbing system at work have to be so complicated? Keep in mind, our building was built in the 60’s (the 1960’s), and we still have pull chain lights. But the plumbing fixtures in the men’s room are all relatively new. What got me in this goofy mood was Sink #2. It doesn’t drain, so someone put a trash bag into the sink (The universal sign for a broken sink. . . kind of like hanging a t-shirt from your car window to signal your car is broken, and not that you just decided to park on the shoulder at Mile Marker 27 and try to find a Royal Farm Store at Exit 12 fifteen miles down the road. But I digress.) The bag isn’t that funny. It was the sign fastened to the faucet that read:

“Do Not Use. Sink Broken.”

You see, I figured this out without the sign. Then I thought about the sign. Like the warning label on the hair dryer. . . a device used to dry hair. . . cautioning me to NOT use it in the shower, where my sole purpose is to get wet, never mind the fact that I know—even without trying—that electricity is no substitute for shampoo. Someone, somewhere, must have plugged that hair dryer in and walked into their shower, so now. . .WARNING!  I pictured someone standing at the broken sink, filled with an empty plastic garbage bag in the bowl and wrapped around the faucet, trying to wash his hands, getting frustrated. . . then pissed. (Sorry. . . you can use ‘agitated’ if you like)

WASHER: “So if it’s broken, I should NOT use it, right?”

OBSERVER: “Well, it isn’t that you’re not allowed to use it. It’s broken, so you CAN’T use it.”

WASHER: “Wait, I thought you said I could?”

And so it goes. . . It made me laugh. Sadly, it’s not the only thing in there that ever makes me laugh, so I’ve decided that it is socially acceptable to laugh in the men’s room. Also related to plumbing, Sink #3 only started working when Sink #2 stopped. I can’t explain that. But then there’s Sink #4. It has the sensor so the water starts when you place your soapy hands under the faucet. Once there’s a stream of water (coming from the faucet), the water itself is now triggering the sensor, so it runs on and on. Sink #5, as we all know, provides water hot enough to make tea, while #6 will turn your fingers blue.

But the other plumbing phenomenon is the waterless urinal. I know, it sounds gross. But there’s a sign over it that touts its water saving superpower. Something like, “This waterless urinal saves the environment 64,000 gallons of water every year.” That would be great, except the toilets flush three times before you can get out of the stall. It’s like they’re telling ol’ waterless, “Don’t worry, buddy! We got ya covered!”

This multi-flush tendency is well-known by the regulars, and we all know to avoid Stall #1. Stall #1, you see, flushes at random times. It seems to sense that precise moment when you’re distracted, and then suddenly, WHOOSH! It’s like Russian Roulette. Probably the best part is when a newbie is in Stall #1 and you’re in Stall #2. You hear the WHOOSH! And see the other guy’s feet come up off the floor. Now that’s funny right there, and I don’t care who you are. . .