Thursday, March 16, 2006

No, Really. Pick Any Lane You Want. I Insist.

Yesterday, I decided to take a different route home. Because Wednesdays are my Kickboxing days, I find that it's quicker, and more difficult to talk myself out of going to the gym, if I take Interstate 84 directly into Milford, instead of the long, boring, winding back road that takes me directly to the house I stay in with Billy. And this is especially important on Wednesdays, as that is Billy's one day off during the week, so normally I have to fight the urge to abandon the gym altogether in exchange for just going home and being a bum with my boyfriend.

So anyway, Interstate 84. It was very windy yesterday. So windy, in fact, that the doors to my office blew open three times, causing various papers and objects on my desk to blow around while I tried pathetically to pin them down, while simultaneously calling for someone else at work to go close the door. (As an aside, they didn't. I don't think they heard me over the giant funnel cloud twisting its way through the office.) When I got in my SUV at the end of the day, I didn't even consider the wind situation until I was already on 84, with no exits for another ten miles.

The "wind situation" is this: When the wind whips around on the interstate, my car just throws up her 4Runner hands and gives in to the gusts. If the wind decides it wants to push me, say, onto the shoulder or into the woods, Gwen the 4Runner just says "Sure, why not?" and happily goes along. I'd like to say that it has to do with her high center of gravity and larger-than-necessary tires, but I really thinks she's just a pussy. At any rate, it makes me nervous. When it's windy, I refuse to use cruise control and generally drive with my hands glued into the 10-and-2 position, trying to anticipate the wind and steer Gwen back on course should she give in too easily.

I was doing alright, keeping her in only one lane, for the most part, when it came time for me to pass an elderly couple doing roughly 20 miles under the speed limit (which, if I'm not mistaken, is just about as dangerous as driving 20 miles over it. But I digress...). I approached their Mercury Sable and got nervous. What if the wind suddenly picks up and shoves me right into their driver's side door? What if I can't steer her back in time? What do I do? I just had this bad feeling. So I calculated my passing very carefully, sure to stay as close to the shoulder as possible to allow for maximum margin for error. And just as the nose of Gwen aligned with the trunk of their car, I noticed something. Their tires were creeping closer and closer to the dashes between our two lanes.

I continued to pass them cautiously, keeping an eye on their tires, trying to decide if the wind was to blame for their drifting. But I wasn't feeling any particularly strong gusts in my car, and their car kept coming over toward me. When you've driven for a substantial amount of time, you know that there will be times that cars are going to drift. You're playing with the radio, getting a drink, applying your makeup, whatever, and you start to head over into the next lane. We all do it. But then you catch yourself just as your tires start to flirt with the oncoming or neighboring lane, and you whip yourself back into your lane, maybe gasp a little bit, then say "Whew, that was a close one," and keep on driving.

But that is not what these geriatrics did. They just kept coming over. I was trying to hug the shoulder, but I was focused on their tires, which were now completely over in my lane. And there was the white-haired geezer, eyes clearly on the road ahead, with no sense of urgency whatsoever to move himself back to where he came from. I could be more understanding if he were preoccupied taking his Centrum Silver or drinking his daily can of Ensure, but he wasn't doing any of that. He was just driving, with his eyes on the road.

And I hate to use my horn. I hate it. HATE IT. I think it's obnoxious and it makes me feel silly. I never know if it's appropriate or just rude, so I generally lay off. But before I knew it, I had my palm slammed against the center of my steering wheel, Gwen screaming at the old folks to get out of my fucking lane. A look of shock mixed with horror, disgust and indignation was frozen onto my face, my eyes wide in preparation for their startled glances at me. I intended to give them a look that said "What the fuck are you doing?!" when they looked over. Maybe they'd give me a look back saying "Oops! Sorry!" and give me a little wave, and I'd roll my eyes and then the whole thing would be over.

BUT HE DIDN'T EVEN LOOK AT ME! When I honked, he just slowly meandered back into his own lane. He didn't even glance over. He didn't even look panicked. And half of his car was in my lane. His wife (I'm guessing) in the passenger seat didn't look over either. They just kept their gazes fixed on the road ahead...Which, I would think, would've tipped them off that they were all over the fucking road.

Naturally, my pulse was racing and my ears felt like they were going to explode from the inside out. I hate that feeling: The one you get where you were almost in an accident, but you weren't, but it still freaks you the fuck out and your hands shake and it takes you, like, a good five, ten minutes to recover. Yeah. That feeling. It followed me the rest of the way down the interstate.

Which only made me hate our driving policies in this country. I don't think it's right that you can just go get your license renewed until you die. I think you should have to take the test over again at a certain point. Because although there are some drivers over the age of 80 who are perfectly capable of keeping up with traffic and staying in one lane, I think it's safe to say that there are many drivers, young and old alike, who have no business being on the road at all.

I'm looking at you, Mr. Mercury Sable.


Serra said...

I totally agree. I've had friends whose parents just refused to quit driving until they'd had a problem bad enough to get their license yanked. One's mom kept forgetting (due to Alzheimer's) that she shouldn't drive anymore and would steal the car keys, then complain that someone "borrowed" her set and she had to go somewhere that didn't exist get the picture.

Retesting should definitely be done, and I have a reason why right here in the house.

Lulu said...

Oh, thank you. This reminds me of that South Park episode when they want to take away the licenses of all the old people and they declare martial law...Anyway, this week people have drifted into my lane twice. The first time was an older woman chauffering her ancient friends around in her light brown metallic Buick Regal. They were turning into the MCL Cafeteria. The second time it was a woman with really tall fuzzy white hair and "I just had eye surgery" sunglasses. She was just about eye level with the steering wheel of her silvery blue Escort Wagon.

Michele said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I just saw a little old man yesterday who barely made it out of the target parking lot without hitting a parked care, I was fearful for him to hit the road!

theotherbear said...

In Australia, once you hit 80 you have to annually present a medical report stating you are fit to drive, and once 85 you have to sit an annual driving test. They can also restrict you to certain times of day or only a certain distance from where you live.

Of course there's still too many old people on the road. Oh, and young people. Dang those old people and young people, they should all be shot at birth ;)

portuguesa nova said...

This comment belongs to the post about your grannie (blogger is not working today):

Sweet!!! Now you have to go.

I love zee Germahns.