Not since the days of prohibition, when the Fedrule Govmint denied us the god-given right to get all buzzed up and beat the wife, have Americans ignored laws en masse as they do the traffic laws of today. And as an avid cyclist, I see our streets becoming noticeably more dangerous as the days pass.
As part of my training as a commercial truck driver, I participated in an accredited defensive driving course in a classroom setting, and on the mean streets of our area. While making our way through the sea of unpredictably operated four-wheelers, we were taught to spot potential hazards before they became outright emergencies. Basically, we were taught to anticipate what other drivers were going to do before they did it. We were taught to react long before evasive emergency tactics would be required of us. In short, it works.
Backup lights on the shoulder of the interstate? Time to get off the pedal and change lanes.
Stuff like that can avoid a potentially fatal vehicular dust-up.
After completing a course such as that, you end up scanning the landscape looking for potential accidents before they can manifest themselves. You drive along thinking to yourself, “Look at this dickhead!” over and over and over again. And by reacting to the predictably risky moves of so many others, you probably save countless lives while the odometer spins away. Been there, done that.
During any given year, I pedal between 3,000 to 3,500 miles, and all in the Wyoming Valley. And being a cyclist mixing it up with vehicles that clearly outweigh mine, my defensive driving instincts are always somewhere near the top of the DEFCON scale: very high alert. But the undeniable fact is that I cannot traverse the length of a single city block without spotting a hazard just begging to become an emergency. Basically, there isn’t much difference between taking a drive to the local supermarket or taking your turn on the bumper cars at the nearby amusement park. It seems to me that common sense and any fleeting semblance of common courtesy that might remain takes flight just as soon as you insert your key into the ignition. To put it another way, the great preponderance of you people drive like a bunch of uncaring assholes.
Okay, so what is this driver probably guilty of? Well, try passing another vehicle where passing is clearly not allowed. It’s probably safe to assume that driver cares not what the posted speed limits are. Impatience comes to mind. How ‘bout a lack of civility as it might pertain to the safety of others on a snow-covered street? Then there’s driving recklessly on a street that is obviously home to scores of children. What is he guilty of if the little girl passes away?
The thing that should frighten you is that the driver in question drives no differently than the rest of you. The thing that should get you to doing some soul-searching is the fact that the driver in question drives no differently than the rest of you. From what I see out there on the streets, just about all of you could easily find yourselves parked ass-backwards on a snow-covered sidewalk, dazed and confused and wondering where that gut-wrenching screaming is coming from. Based on your tiresome and predictable actions, you’re all a motor vehicle accident just waiting to happen. You may not want to hear it, but you drive like a bunch of assholes. Day-in and day-out, I pedal the streets of this city thinking to myself, “Look at this dickhead!”
I once saw a speeding Mercedes coupe crush a little kid on Penn Ave., very close to my tiny street. The lady driving the Mercedes was hell-bent on getting somewhere and getting there quickly as she was blowing away the 35 mph speed limit. And after she hit the kid, stopped the vehicle and got out…she realized the now-screaming kid was pinned beneath her engine block. She threw her hands over her face, burst into tears and let out a scream of “Oh my god!!!” And as startled onlookers rushed to the shrieking kid’s aid, she sobbed uncontrollably.
At that moment, I could no longer hear that kid’s screams, only her sobs. And as I stared at her and her reaction, my very first thought was to walk over there and bitch-slap her to the asphalt. In my mind, this is a neighborhood. And neighborhoods have oodles and oodles of kids mucking about. And if you care anything about the safety of others, you don’t play NASCAR in my neighborhood, or any other neighborhood for that matter. If you are running late for your asinine pedicure, there is no excuse for putting others at risk.
I resisted the sudden urge to bitch-slap the self-absorbed, aging trophy wife. But I did hang around long enough to make absolutely certain that the responding police officers knew she was doing what she probably always does…impersonating Jeff Gordon where she ought not be.
Where is it written that it’s perfectly understandable to preach at your kids about personal responsibility and whatnot and then pack them into the back seat of the Windstar and demonstrate a clear lack of personal responsibility when obeying the law is concerned? If your kid gets caught breaking a law, you are going to freak out on them and then some. But every time you take them to the ice cream stand, you undermine your own credibility by disobeying whatever it is that suits your needs. If you drive like an asshole, you are training your kids to one day do likewise. Sorry and all, but “Look at this dickhead!” probably concisely sums up your driving habits.
What’s the quickest way to get from point A to point B? Hell! That’s easy. Drive like an asshole, the consequences of which be damned.
And if you try to run the yellow and cause a nasty motor vehicle accident where none need happen, just lie to the cops by telling them you had the green. Why not? Everybody does it, right? Sure, that innocent girl needs to be life-flighted out of there because of you, but you wouldn’t want your car insurance rates to increase dramatically. Lie to the cops and hope like hell that no bystanders come forward and call you on your lie while your kids are taking this all in. Yeah, you were driving like an asshole, but why should you be held personally responsible for all of this needless carnage? Lie. Lie right in front of your kids. And then wonder aloud at some later date as to why they act so irresponsibly. You didn’t teach them that.
Somebody much wiser than I once said, “Civility is the lubricant of society.” Have you seen much civility out there on our streets lately? Methinks not. Courtesy? Civility? Oh, what silly and quaint notions they are when you have a thirty minute commute ahead of you and you provided yourself with only ten minutes by which to make it. Common Courtesy? Civility? No, try road rage just begging to happen. Or debilitating injuries. Or drawn-out lawsuits. Or funerals.
The State of Pennsylvania publishes a booklet titled “Share the Road.” It’s a publication with a twofold objective. It’s designed to help bicyclists understand how to safety intermingle with motor vehicles. And it’s supposed to impress upon the operators of motor vehicles that cyclists do have certain rights on our roadways. Rights? Bicycles? Not in this far less than enlightened area. Not when the hopelessly impatient drivers of said motor vehicles view the other motorists as obstacles to be trampled underfoot. If you think smokers are treated like second class citizens, try commuting back and forth to work on a bicycle. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Two summers ago, a car hastily exiting a downtown parking garage struck my bike, the Rock Stomper, while I was riding on a sidewalk. I’m not sure how I managed to do it, but I kind of jumped off of the bike right before it was impacted and ended up landing on my feet. I immediately reached for the bike, pulled it back a ways and tried to survey the damage. And what did the driver of the car do? Why, they sped away and made a right turn on a red without even thinking of stopping first. Fu>king bicycles! They ought to be outlawed, or eradicated, or obliterated for getting in my way.
If I ride on the streets, I get screamed at to get on the effing sidewalk where I supposedly belong. And if I ride on the sidewalk, I get screamed at to get on the effing streets where I supposedly belong. The bicycle is not the problem. The problem is the unforgiving mindset of the motorists whether driving or having already parked their cars: Anything that gets in my way ought to be outlawed, or eradicated, or obliterated.
So now we have a young girl in critical condition because somebody was in a big effing hurry. Big surprise there. I watched the news last night only to learn that the folks on Park Ave. are demanding that stop signs or traffic lights be installed on that street to cut down on the excessive speeding that goes on there. One lady even said she “fired-off a letter” to Mayor Tom Leighton demanding satisfaction.
So let me get this straight. Being that the great majority of you drive like a bunch of effing assholes, the local government needs to erect a new sign? Because the concept of personal responsibility is completely lost on most of you, we need a new traffic signal to protect the children in that neighborhood? We need more stop signs to be ignored and more red lights to be run through? Maybe we should put a stop sign at every intersection the world over, since absolutely no one seems to understand that 4,000-pound objects exploding through urban settings bring about inexplicably bad outcomes.
Somebody else ran over a little girl waiting for the school bus on the sidewalk. Somebody else might be in big, big trouble. Somebody else is praying that she survives her wounds. Somebody else has probably contacted their attorney. Somebody else’s name was mentioned on WNEP. But, based on your contemptuous view of anything that might get in your way, and your predisposition for ignoring all known roadway decorum, and your propensity for ignoring traffic laws, who’s to say it won’t be your own personal nightmare by as early as tomorrow?
“Look at this dickhead!”
You can say whatever you want. And you can present some twisted version of deniability designed to make you feel better about yourself. But the fact of the matter is, it’s the rarest of the rare days when I encounter a motorist that is not a dickhead. You need to understand that what happens within a violently blinding nanosecond cannot be undone. More importantly, you need to embrace some modicum of civility. But most importantly, you need to slow the fu>k down already.
I've been to my family doctor twice since then. I've got two more prescriptions meant to save my right lung from either pneumonia or a possible collapse. I've been dealing with the human resource types at work, my insurance people, her insurance people, the tower, the pharmacists and my doctor nonstop. I've got paperwork up the friggin' wazoo to make sense of. I've got two more x-ray events to attend to during the next two days. Another doctor visit looming. My license plate lying near my feet. And lost wages, medical costs and subjective pain & suffering issues still to contend with. All because some nineteen year-old decided to blow through a red light while going 50 mph in a 25 mph zone. Very nice.--Yours truly, October 6, 2004
Whether you want to believe it or not…you are most likely a dickhead.