Monday, June 21, 2010

Road Rage

I used to like driving, back when turn signals weren't optional, and the passing lane was used for, you know, passing.  Those were glory days, when "road rage" might have meant being angry at pavement, and honking at someone for cutting you off didn't earn a second insult (such as fuck you, by finger and lips.)

But am I romanticizing?  Have drivers always had their minds half off the road, even before cell phones?  Has law enforcement always committed, habitually, the violations they are supposed to ticket?

Certainly I was more naive once, unaware that the number of accidents in the US is six million a year, with two million injured and forty thousand dead.  I was certainly, blissfully unaware of how many of those accidents could be caused by one's own car.  But according to this, "most [accidents] are caused by excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior."  You mean it's not the gas guzzling, view blocking, football-field-stopping-distance SUV's?  Not the oblivious fools slowing way down because they don't know where they're going?

I could believe that most accidents involve excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior, but that's not the same thing as cause.  I have been involved in four traffic incidents in my life, and by far the most prominent factor was lack of driver attention.  I'm certainly not saying people shouldn't slow down and lighten up, but these seem like special cases of attention on something other than driving, which is to say what you are doing, what others are doing, laws, safety, and good sense.

How about this:  make driving your priority on the road, not your destination or emotions, nor secondary pursuits.

And while we're at it, could we design automatic headlights that come on in the dark?

Gas stations used to make more sense too, or at least seemed more pleasant.  One might have gotten one's windshield cleaned, perhaps even directions or a map.  One certainly wouldn't get attitude, at least not regularly.

And once, if I am not waxing nostalgic, incompetence was uncommon.  I was first clued into the decline of this phenomenon, vis a vis gas stations, when trouble arose some miles after having oil put in my car (oil checks used to be standard too, remember?)  A horrid metallic sound rattled from under the hood, and my "oil" warning light, er, alighted.  I pulled over and popped the hood, to an engine covered in oil -- the oil cap was several inches from where it was supposed to be, resting on the engine block where the "attendant" left it.  I had to pay to have the engine power-washed, and was lucky to escape without serious damage.

And though that misshap was potentially serious, it fails to be as annoying as a second example of gas stations gone wild, at the Shell on Route 10 in Whippany.  The oaf on duty, after trying to smash the nozzle into my tank, proceeded to turn it upside down.  Before I could react, it fell out, spilling gas onto my car and breaking my "gas door."  I would say that that this guy was not properly trained, but who in fuck needs to be trained to pump gas?  I've done it, as most everyone does who is not in New Jersey -- it's doesn't require a class.

He might have been zonked on fumes, maybe just stupid.  At least one of these seemed the case when I approached him, not wanting to pay for filling up pavement, and desiring restitution for my broken "gas door."   He denied causing damage, claiming the door was broken when I arrived.  I became furious, but there was no point.  The idiot's command of English was, ah, minimal, and in any case he just stood there shaking his head and repeating "no my fault."

I went to the police, who informed me that I had no options.  I admit to wanting the cop to accompany me back to the gas station, to threaten my way to a fixed "gas door" -- but that wasn't happening, because it's against the law, unlike being an inconsiderate idiot jerk-off.

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