Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Massachusetts Drivers... we are not good

I think we need to just come out of the closet and admit it- we are not good drivers.

You might be saying, "yes, this is true, Korte, this we know, this we have already admitted openly."

Alas, I say we have NOT admitted anything. The best we will do, we Massachusetts folk, is admit that everyone else in the state is horrific, but we can't come clean and face our own operational deficiencies.

We aren't all the same, there are some acts behind the wheel so egregious that the motorist could be justifiably shot. Example- yesterday I am puttering along in the travel lane (i.e. the "slow lane") going a comfortable 60-65. At some point, a swath of cars begins to bail out of the slow lane and rotate back in. This generally means someone is going way too slow, but in Massachusetts, you never know. When I finally get behind the turtle, the operator has her hazard light on and is traveling about 40-45 miles an hour on the turnpike. I assume she has one of those lame small spares on her car and doesn't want to risk driving 65 on the donut... but I am wrong.

She is on a cell phone, possibly thinking...

"Well, I can't drive the speed limit and talk on the phone, that might be dangerous... but if I flick on my hazards, I can chat guilt and risk- free! Yay, yay for me, (and let's forget about the other drivers I am endangering and inconveniencing.) After they aren't important, because they aren't, well... ME!!!

To me, this is far worse than speeding, driving wrecklessly and yammering away on a cell phone, primarily because the fact that the lady put on her flashers and slowed down shows that she's aware she is doing something dangerous. At least the wreckless driver is seemingly ignorant of the danger they are outting others and themselves in.

My friend Barry, a 6'3" goof that could probably absorb a direct hit from an SUV without breaking the skin, routinely flinches when I am at the wheel. Fortunately, he wears a seat belt and is cemented in place. I asked him why the hell he is so jumpy, and he said, "because you drive everywhere like you're taking a pregnant woman to the hospital"

"Really," I said. "Really?" I honestly hadn't been aware of this.

For years I have proclaimed myself a competent driver, in spite of occasionally chatting on my cell phone (while lambasting anyone else that does the same.) I guess the truth is that I am probably as bad as the next guy, (though I am an excellent parallel parker.)

After requesting explaination of his assessment, Barry described how I take onramps, cutting to the inside (well that lane moves faster) and using the road like a race track, and I couldn't deny it.

I'll admit it- I stink, there, I said it.

But the characteristic that defines Massachusetts drivers is not radical exploits behind the wheel, but a complete inability to look at our own driving while simultaneously obsessing over every minute detail of the rest of the driving public.

The best example of this that comes to mind is a friend of mine who happens to be a transplant from Long Island, which proves that bad Massachusetts driving is learned, and not genetic.

This guy is like a hall monitor run wild, chirping out the window at not only drivers that fail to meet his approval, but errant pedestrians as well.

Last week, he accelerated (a great Massachusetts trick is accelerating so that people inconvencience you by "causing" you to break when they "cut" in front of you) then yu are justified in yelling out the window, or beeping if you prefer) but I digress... he accelerated into some people crossing the street ahead of us, then had to break and yells out the window, "That's NOT helping... that's REALLY NOT HELPING."

It's as though we look for reasons to be irritated.

Yesterday, I am riding shotgun with the same hall monitor and he indiscriminately stops in the middle of the street (with cars behind him). No signal, no nothing. I ask him what he's doing, and he says, "looking for a spot."

He continues to accelerate, slow down, accelerate, slow down... still no signal.

I say, "what about the guy behind you?"

"So what?" he says, almost confused by the question.

Than again, what was I thinking, the driver behind him wasn't him.


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