11 January 2007

"As a special favor, I am enclosing our 3-color brochure on phone etiquette. You might find it useful."

I love that Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner have given me so many hours of enjoyment. I love that Earnestine has a conversation with someone she refers to Mr. Veedle (Gore Vidal). She says the above statement to him at one point during a phone conversation.

I just wish I could cut-in on some mobile phone conversations and say, "what's more important: navigating 3 or 4 tons of steel and flammables through busy city streets or talking on the telephone, you F*ING moron?" But, alas, I cannot.

Just a light rundown of the idiots I encountered on my 15 minute drive to work. I know, I know, everyone should be so lucky and 15 minutes to work is nothing. Here's the catch. I enjoy driving. I usually enjoy the drive to work. But, do you ever have one of those mornings where you might as well be parked facing a brick wall instead of trying to get somewhere?

This morning, from the time I left my humble little street, University Circle, my belabored attempts at forward movement on TN 14, locally known as Jackson Avenue, were impeded by the following:

A broken-down, tires nearly flat blue and white mid-70's Chevy van with a broken out window that had been filled with a remnant of plywood. Average speed? 15 m.p.h. I don't know if this is due to the age of the driver, the condition of the vehicle or a combination of both. I'll pass him.

For reference, the speed limit on Jackson is 40 m.p.h.

In the lane to the left of that charming vehicle, I approached a carload of people in a late-model Honda Civic whose windshield was cracked into about 1,546 pieces, front bumper held on with a bungee-cord, weaving back and forth in and out of the lane markers. I assumed that the weaving was due to impaired vision and attempts to maneuver to a large enough shard of glass to see through. Average length of time to start from the line at the intersection? 20 to 25 seconds -- may not sound like much time, but count it out and remember how long it takes you to remove your foot from the brake and depress the accelerator. Average cruising speed? 25 m.p.h. -- not enough time to get through the blockade caused by the van and the cracked-out Honda between traffic signals.

Continuing west on Jackson, the glut of slow moving vehicles is approached by a ratted-out, roughly 1985 GMC Jimmy that sounds as if it's running on 4 of the six-cylinders under the hood with an exhaust leak and smoky emissions. This bitch driver decides that she wants to try and shoe-horn herself in between me and the cracked-out Honda.

Um, not going to happen. Especially with our limited distances between lights. Finally, we reach a stretch of Jackson that affords me a few blocks between lights, so I eventally punch the turbo to get out the of the "wolf pack" (a phrase and situation I learned to avoid at Mr. Trinkle's instruction while driving a Ford Grenade* in driver's ed, because collision statistics increase exponentially in them. Lucky for us, Mr. Trinkle taught Algebra during the school year so we had a great understanding of "exponentially," too).

Being the conscientious driver I am, I had already engaged my turn signal as I finally arrived at the ramp for I-240. I noticed a pedestrian nearing the crosswalk at the ramp's entrance and prepared to yield. Realizing that we had both been paying attention and waving to acknowledge each other, we knew we could both continue without inconveniencing each other.

Ahh, the new interchange at Jackson and I-240. Practically a year in the making it is a long-overdue slice of driving heaven compared to the congested rat nest that used to include interchanges for Jackson Avenue, I-40 West and Madison Avenue all within less than 3/4 of a mile. What fun times we used to have.

Buzzing merrily along I-240 cresting the hill at the foot of the Madison Avenue exit I see a giant, black 2004 Chevrolet Suburban with "W 2004" and the American Flag in a white oval (one of those obviously feeble attempts at parroting the classic European stickers) weaving and bobbing in the exit lane. Not slightly, but quite obviously. As I got to the two-lane section of the exit ramp I got in the left lane to get around her. Big surprise, as I expected, she's on the phone, holding it with her neck, looking like she was trying to write a note or open a pudding cup, traveling at >30 m.p.h. on the expressway. Nice.

Having had enough, I depressed the accelerator, hard, to the floor. I heard the turbo begin to whistle and got around her to Madison Avenue where I merged into the center lane. Ahead, I noticed a trolley in the left lane being followed by someone in a green Isuzu Trooper. In the right lane were service trucks for the utility company.

I have to ask myself, "am I the only one paying attention, here?" Clearly, the middle lane is the place to be since the trolley is approaching a stop. And there's plenty of time for Miss Isuzu to move into it before I am near the chaos. But, what does she do? Miss Isuzu remains behind the trolley until it stops, waits until I am less that 25 ft. away from them and then cuts in front of me.

WAIT! It gets better. If, on the never-happens scale of not paying attention while driving, I am forced to move out of my lane into moving traffic I punch the crap out of my car and get moving and out of the way. I don't make people screech to a halt to avoid hitting me. The point of driving is to keep things moving, isn't it? One doesn't stop and block traffic lane(s) because the entrance to their favorite WalMart is congested, or they want to make an illegal left turn into Kroger because it keeps them from having to drive another block.

Oh, no. Not this molasses-assed dipshit. After she cuts me off she pokes along at the rate of speed she was traveling behind the trolley. She apparently hadn't paid attention to her surroundings for three blocks. She couldn't have -- it's much more important to fart around with your cell phone while stupidly ambling along, jeopardizing everyone else's lives/well-being/punctuality. She didn't even see me until I gave her a loud (thank you, Volkswagen), orchestra of trumpets-like horn blast, at which point she looked up, accelerated and jerked back into the left lane.

Thankfully, at this point I was close to the office and had smooth sailing for at least 6 or 7 blocks before pressing the remote to enter the lot. Thank you, God, for watching over me in my travels.

*Grenade: while working at a car rental company I learned this reference to the Ford Granada.

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