Driving Miss Crazy

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This past weekend, I went home to L.A. - Pasadena to be exact. The original Los Angeles suburb, Pasadena has morphed into its own little metropolis with its own downtown and commuting population. Still no quarts of beer, though (see last column for joke). But one thing that never changes about the greater L.A. area, besides the smog and the falsity of being, is this:

People can't drive for shit.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm superior to anyone else in this regard. I consider myself a pretty average driver. I am actually somewhat cautious, really, and I certainly don't see any point in risking my life or the lives of others to get to my manicurist on time. If I'm late to get somewhere, I'm late. Firstly, I kinda have to be over it, and I'm old enough to deal with the consequences of hitting the "snooze" button too many times. But evidently I'm alone in this mentality. Everyone else down there seems to be racing against death to get wherever they're going. You know the movie "Speed," and how they have to keep the bus over 55 miles an hour or it will explode? Apparently, that same feature is now standard on the latest Saabs, BMWs and Lexuses (Lexi?) out on the road.

One of my missions this past weekend was driving to the

Westside (out around Beverly Hills) to pick up my friend Barrett. Yes, the same Barrett from last week - much less bitchy, he would like you all to know. He's going to law school at UCLA next year, and he was down to sign a lease. Anyway, I figure I got on the freeway about 12:50 p.m. on Friday. Now, I don't know how familiar any of you are with the area (or the freeway system), but at about 1:10 p.m. I was on the 405 with about five miles to go until my offramp. No sweat, right? Except I didn't hit my off-ramp until about 2 p.m. Did everyone catch the math on that one? Five miles in 50 minutes. I've never moved so slowly in my life, except maybe in line at the ASUC bookstore. Compound the sheer amount of time I was in the car with the fact that I was cut off about 17 times and stopped short about a million, and you can imagine what kind of mood I was in. By the time I finally got to him, it was 2:30 p.m. and he was staying no more than three miles from the offramp I mentioned earlier. I was no fun on the ride home, lemme tell ya. Plus, the ride home was even longer - it took two hours in gridlock.

Now, I'm not giving the greater L.A. area much credit. I understand that this was a holiday weekend, and that tons of people were leaving work early to go...somewhere - I don't know where. But the driving style is what was really pissing me off. There are certain things that I just find unacceptable to do to another human being on the road. They are:

1. Not giving the courtesy wave. This is my all-time pet peeve. Honestly, would it kill you to acknowledge that I was just polite and let you go ahead or didn't cut you off? If somebody opens a door for you, you don't breeze through without saying anything - you say "thank you," dammit! Learn some manners! (By the way, this also applies to pedestrians. If I'm slowing down to let you jaywalk, you're damn lucky. Don't push that luck by pissing me off while you're still in the position to get run over. It just makes both of us look really bad if I feel compelled to clip you).

2. Looking somebody dead in the eye as you do something completely stupid with your SUV. Now, this may sound like a pretty specialized peeve, but it happens more than you think. I am not going to give you ocular permission to block the intersection right in front of me. Hide your shameful face - I honestly don't know how you look in the mirror, anyway.

3. Four-wheel drive vehicles that obviously don't go off-roading. Why do you need 6,000 pounds of four-wheel drive car to commute to work and back? Unless you are a firewatcher in the Sierras. In which case you probably drive a kick-ass car anyway - one that I couldn't possibly belittle. But those of you who limit yourselves to the pavement of the 10, 110, and 210 freeways, take my advice - buy a little import sedan and get over yourselves.

4. Giving me the finger when I accidentally cut you off. As you have read above, I generally drive normally, with no real intent to harm. So if I accidentally do something stupid, guess what? It wasn't a personal attack on you and your agenda. If I kept you from reaching your destination on time (by about one-hundredth of a second), I apologize. Adjunct to this, I'm really not interested in your opinion on my mother, my car or my driving style. Keep it to yourself, since I don't respect your opinion at all anyway.

All of these things are irritating as hell, but there is a phenomenon that surpasses all of these annoyances and just sends me into new realms of bitchiness. Why do Northern California drivers refuse to put "the" in front of the freeway number? The freeway is an entity, a noun, an object! You shouldn't "get on 24." What if "24" is the name of somebody's dog, for God's sake? Use the preposition correctly and save us SoCal-ers a lot of grief.

Driving is definitely a privilege. But is it a privilege when almost everyone's got it? I think people forget themselves a lot and don't realize that their driving affects everyone else out on the road. I know that it's easy to feel isolated, alone in your car, but you're not really - people can see you singing at the top of your lungs or picking your nose, and I think people should behave accordingly. It's a crowded freeway, after all. Really crowded.

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