What’s the deal with drivers these days?

Maybe it’s just me, but hey, what’s the deal? Seriously. It seems as though every time I hit the road, I’m encountered by one of three things:

1) Tailgating (driving too closely behind)
2) Speeding (driving too fast)
or
3) Slow Drivers (this one is self explanatory)

It’s as if everyone I meet out there has a personal vendetta against me and my car. I’m not really sure why – I just know. Whether I’m sitting at a stoplight, driving on the highway or just leaving my garage, I can feel a certain disturbance in the Force that says, “watch out”. Just the other day I was waiting at a four-way light when I noticed a car behind me come streaking up. The person stopped abruptly behind me, within inches of my back bumper, but instead of moving backward, this person crept up to me even closer! What’s up with that?! This person was so close to my backside I couldn’t even see their headlights any longer. When that happens, you know that the distance between you and the front of their car is mere fractions of an inch.

But why do that? I mean, the light will eventually turn green. We are both aware of this (as fellow operators of motor vehicles) and we are both in the knowing that when that light turns green, I will proceed forward. So why the lack of personal space? Better yet, why the need to be so close to my hind end? But what’s even better (if you can sense my sarcasm) is the reaction I get after I start my car when the light changes – anger. Not from me, but from the person in back who is apparently upset that I didn’t hit the gas like a bat out of hell when the green signal came on.

Ok, I’m not a violent or angry person by nature, but come on. Really? Unless you’ve got a pregnant wife about to go through labor in your backseat, I don’t see the reason for such a response. Moreover, if I can see that you’re ticked off at me for being “slow”, then chances are I will continue my “slow” behavior throughout the duration of time we spend together on the road.

It’s times like these that really test my patience. Not so much with the other person; just my own. I know I shoudln’t be looking over my shoulder constantly or be overly concerned with the person trailing me a mere six inches away (at 60 mph, no less), but for whatever reason, I can’t always help myself. I wish I could. And I’m sure so many others are in the same boat.

By some strange circumstance, driving a car has become a very personal experience for people. Our car – its make, model, etc. – are all reflections of ourselves. But even more so, they’re like statements to all who observe us. How much money we make (or are willing to spend), what we like to drive (gas-guzzling giant or mini-mileage machine), and where we are in life (single with a sports car or married with three kids and a minivan). It’s the very reason cops have a tendency to pull bright, red sports cars over more than any other vehicle. Red is a color of attraction and additionally, it fits the stereotype of someone trying to make a statement. Sorry all you red-car drivers – it’s just statistics talking.

But there you have it. Driving is as personal as walking down the street and seeing a stranger on the sidewalk. You exchange glances, maybe nod the head, and then you go about your business. Nothing crazy, just a simple gesture before you go about your day. The only difference is that a car places about a ton of metal and plastic between you and another human being. And because of that fact, we think we can push the boundaries of personal space. We press up real close, become agitated over another’s slower-than-snail’s pace behind the wheel, and we blurt out expletives best left for a Tarentino movie. Forget those bumper stickers that say “Baby on board” or “How’s my driving?” – nobody cares about that anymore. They only care about where they’re headed and how long it’ll take them to get there. That’s about it.

Maybe we should all go back to riding trains again? Or mandate that everyone take the bus to work? I’m sure this would give plenty of people a job considering the amount of buses and new trains we’d need to be operated. That’s a plus, right? And maybe by way of making people share space with others just down the street from them, they might actually get to know who lives near them. This is, of course, a very unrealistic idea – especially considering how people are less apt to want to spend time with other people nowadays. But hey, I’m just spitballin’ ideas here.

In the good ol’ days of driving, cars were as much a novelty as they were a means of transportation. Owning a car was a sign of status. If you could afford a clunker that went a little over 30 mph, then you were a high roller. And when the auto industry started upping the ante on horsepower, cars became a science experiment. How fast can we make them? How sleek can they be without being too sleek? These questions were raised and we answered each one with a “yes, we can make them faster and yes, we will make them sleeker”. Then, at some point, cars stopped being a sign of status. And they stopped being a neat science experiment.

Naturally, I’m talking about today’s cars.

With a decent enough credit score and a monthly payment that can be paid off in 30 years, Joe Smith down the street can afford a $25,000 sports car just like anybody else. And what’s more, that car will have enough giddy up to compete with just about every other car on the road.

So where’s the fun in that? Suddenly, I’m upset by this debacle. I thought we were supposed to have some diversity out there among the masses, weren’t we? And speaking of diverse selection, have you seen the 2013 models vs. their 2012 counterparts? Aside from a few changes in headlights, I don’t see much difference. So why would I buy the 2013 model if the 2012 is pretty much the same thing? Bleh, now I’m just irritated.

Well, wait a second here. I find myself unusually perturbed right now. Why is that? Am I ticked off at cars in general? Is that my issue? Is the guy behind me not really angry with my driving, he’s merely upset that his car is as generic as mine? Hmm. Could be, I suppose. Perhaps that’s our problem nowadays – everything is too much the same. Or maybe our isolation in the car keeps us from remembering that yes, there are actual people driving and sharing the road with us out there. They’re not robots or some scourge of the Earth meant to make us late to that meeting we didn’t properly prepare for. No, these are actual people. And if we are never to know these people, then why bother with caring about who’s behind the wheel in the first place? I suppose that may make the most sense of out anything in this rant.

Or maybe not. I guess that’s just another thing to ponder as you’re out traversing the highways. But if you could (and I know some people will do the opposite just to spite me), please try to stay back a few feet if you can. I promise you that the light will turn green, I will begin moving forward, and wherever it is that you are going – I promise that it’ll still be there when you get there.

And if it isn’t there, then I’m sorry. I have no other words than to take the bus if you’re so worried about being on time. Maybe you’ll meet someone interesting on the way there. Just saying.

Epiphany: Almost all bumper stickers … are complete garbage.

“Life is just so much better with my dog.”

Ok, really?

First off, of course life is probably better with your dog. The dog is your pet. Its emotional landscape revolves completely around you, the owner, so why wouldn’t life be just amazing in the company of an animal who worships you?

Secondly, if what you say is true, then that’s just sad. If you need to keep a personal fan around all day just to make your life better, then I’m sorry to hear that. If what you’re really looking for is a friend or another fan, heck, I’ll be your biggest fan. Need me to send you a card or something in the mail? I could do that. At least for a while I could. I really want you to know that somebody out there cares and that life isn’t so terrible. And that you don’t require the fellowship of a dog just to improve your quality of life. People are a double-edged sword of happiness and despair (I will agree) but hey, we can be good support and a great time if you let us.

I didn’t have a plan for what to write about today, but that’s usually the case with me. I prefer to look for inspiration in everyday life. When the moment strikes me and an idea begins to flow, I let the fingers on my keyboard do the work. Such is the reason behind this post.

My inspiration today came from the backside of a Ford Explorer while sitting at a red light. I was on the phone with my family, chatting about holiday preparations, when I saw a huge paw print on the back of this car in front of me. As with most bumper stickers, the “theme” of the message revolves arond the shape of the said bumper sticker. Sports enthusiasts get bumper stickers shaped like footballs or baseballs; cat-lovers enjoy cat-shaped stickers; and modern day hippies love to plaster those “coexist” stickers on the backside of their vehicles which encompass the shape of every major religion known to man. Yes, nothing says “I stand for absolutely nothing” like a bumper sticker saying “coexist” in the shape of every known religion. And if you rebuke me by stating you believe in loving everyone, then I’vevgot news for you, there already is a religously-affiliated faith that does this. You may want to check it out.

Since this sticker was in the shape of a dog’s foot, I knew what this one would be about – “I have a dog, his name is Fluffy, and I love him oh so dearly.”

Well, isn’t that special?

This particular sticker said exactly what I posted earlier – “Life is just so much better with my dog.” After I read this message, I tilted my head sideways in confusion. You know, just like a dog will do when it’s trying to decipher what its master is communicating. A couple of thoughts came to mind when I did this; namely the first two above, but I soon arrived at a real humdigner as I followed this doggie-lover to my next destination – I realized how incredibly ridiculous most bumper stickers really are and how tiny a message they make in our everyday lives. But for whatever reason, we put them on our cars like they really mean something. As if we’re making some profound statement about our lives and we want everyone who shares the road with us to know it. Was that the intent of this driver? Could have been, sure. But it also could not. For the sake of this argument, and the majority of bumper stickers out there, I think it’s trying to say something. It’s like a tattoo; only this tattoo is for our car. But here’s the kicker, since it’s just for our car, we have little to no stake in the game. We can remove this sticker at our leisure if we want to. For example, if one day Fluffy changes his mind about me and decides to bite me, I can take that sticker right off. I’ll run my car through the nearest carwash and erase all traces of my “must love dogs” sign.

It’s just that easy.

Real tattoos are a bit harder to remove (or so I’ve been told). But harder still are the emotional tattoos we recieve from others; many of which are given without our consent whatsoever. Those are the most real to us and the ones we don’t always like to show off to everyone else. So why is it that we put these semi-meaningless stickers (with apparently meaningful messages) on our cars and parade them around like they’re worth something to us? Considering all I’ve said, I really don’t get it. If you really love that dog of yours, then buy it a bone; or take it outside to play catch. If you enjoy football so much, then call a friend and talk to them about it. And if you really feel like we should “love” one another, then maybe you need to check in with yourself about what you really believe. And then question if your bumper sticker truly is making the impact that you were hoping to achieve.

Because let’s face it, if you’re leaving the dynamics of your message up to a bumper sticker, then I’ve got news for you: the message just isn’t getting delivered.

And P.S. to all the manufacturers of bummper stickers – No, I’m not trying to put you out of business. I just wish you’d make some better stickers. Or better yet, ones that don’t revolve around dogs or cats.

And P.S.S. to all those who have bumper stickers supporting their kids who play sports or proudly wear their alma mater in the rear view window – Yes, I think you should keep those on your car. Those actually make more sense.

Thanks, J.C.L.