The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 1, 2016: Driving Me Crazy – The Passhole, The Zippy, and The Creeper

This column was originally published at Pick Wayne’s Brain.

Here are three more driver types who seem to live to make life miserable for the rest of us who have some place to be and not all that much time to get there. They are the Passhole, the Zippy, and the Creeper. [The other posts in this series cover The Pacer, Turn Signals, and The Pokey and The Gapper.]

I’ve been encountering a lot of Passholes lately. The Passhole is that guy who just won’t go more than one or two miles an hour faster than the trucks (though sometimes cars) he’s right next to and allegedly passing, but who then moves over once he has eventually passed the truck or ten-plus line of cars and then speeds up! He’s just too afraid to pass others on the highway. It’s frustrating because right up until he starts to get even with those big trucks or line of cars, he’s fine with doing the correct speed for the left lane. But then he drops down about ten miles an hour or so as he slowly inches his way beside the people he’s supposedly passing (but won’t actually pass this week) until he finally gets past the first vehicle in the row. Then he steps on the gas or, worse still, he moves over into the other lanes and speeds up. I don’t understand this behavior at all. Look, if you’re afraid of the big trucks on the highway then I have two things to tell you. First, the interstate highway system was built for them, not you. Second, if you’re so afraid of the damn truck, then speed up and get past it faster! But Passholes don’t just fear trucks, they fear everyone. I’ve been behind Passholes several times this week (which is one reason I was inspired to finally write about them), and their driving tactics leave me scratching my head (or making other gestures with my hands), which is easier to do when you’re driving slowly. (Yes, 65 MPH is slow on a highway built when the speed limit was 75 MPH.) What is the problem? Why do they slow down so much? (It’s highly noticeable.) It’s not because they’re afraid of the cops. I know some people think the cops won’t single you out if you’re doing the same speed as the car next to you, but these people speed up when their car finally goes past the people next to them. So it’s not out of a fear of the cops. It’s not the high speed that concerns them because they were going faster before they got next to them and sped up when they got past. If they’re afraid of something, why prolong their exposure to it? Why not just keep going the same speed they were and get past it that much faster? I’d be happy to pass them so they’re no longer in my life, but they speed up when it’s clear and make that damn near impossible without going 90 MPH. And in all honesty, I try not to go 90 MPH though I find it necessary at times. But sometimes Passholes don’t like it when people pass them, which I find a little strange. I would think they would be happy to get out of the way of my angry eyes and hand gestures, but, no, they want to prolong everyone else’s suffering. Because as soon as they get up to the cars now ahead of me in the right lane, they’ll slow down again and not leave me a chance to move over in front of them. They’re such Passholes. At least they’re not dangerous Zippies.

Now you may call me a “leadfoot” (after which I’d stomp on your foot, thus ending the debate once and for all as to whether or not my feet are really made of lead), but I’m no Zippy. The Zippy is that driver who not only drives fast but who darts in and out of the other cars, often leaving little room between himself and the person he’s terrorizing. It’s easy to figure out he has some kind of death wish, it’s just hard to figure out whose death he wishes. I once had a Zippy cut right in front of me to get around people in the right-hand lane, and I had to swerve and brake a bit to make sure we didn’t collide. I can’t be certain we wouldn’t have if I didn’t do that, but I am certain it wouldn’t have smelled too good in my car. What truly angered me (apart from getting cut off so near-disastrously) was that the driver, clearly having seen what happened in his rear view mirror, was pounding his arm against the top of the passenger seat as if he was laughing at the near calamity he had caused. If I speed up to get around someone, I don’t also make it an all-or-nothing proposition where I endanger everyone around me just because my ego won’t let me get beaten. I don’t have an ego; I have depression. If I can see from doing the mental Calculus that I won’t be able to do it safely I slow down, back off, get back behind the guy and began showing him the sign language I invented for just such an occasion. Speaking of Calculus, did you know that when you drive your brain automatically uses Calculus, whether or not you have ever taken the course in school? The Calculus was invented to solve equations where things change relative to each other, or to find the area under a curve, and other uses. If you know the velocity of a car coming toward you at an intersection and its distance from you, and if you know how many seconds it would take you to pull out and get up to driving speed, you could calculate whether or not it was safe to pull out. And though you don’t perform the actual calculations with actual numbers, you still do the rough estimates in your head and say, “I can make it.” And most of the time you’re right. We hope. I certainly do when I’m the guy coming toward you at that intersection. Please, don’t pull out in front of me if it looks like I’m driving faster than you plan on going. I’m gobsmacked by the people who see me tooling along, often faster than the posted speed limit (I admit it; like you, I’m a minor criminal), and still decide to pull out in front of me. My primary strategy when driving to work is to get to the next intersection before someone who might want to drive slower than I wants to pull out ahead of me. Especially a school bus. In my hometown, the local school bus will stop at every house along this one hill leading down into the village. Why those kids (and we’re not talking about elementary school kids, these are middle school or higher) can’t all gather at one stop at the bottom of the hill is beyond me. Instead we stop, wait thirty seconds, then drive seventy-five feet where we stop again, wait thirty seconds, then drive another seventy-five feet where we stop and wait again. At least that bus then pulls over to the side and lets us pass him. Otherwise you might have ended up reading my name in the paper for killing a local school bus driver. What’s worse than being behind a school bus is having a Creeper in between you.

The Creeper is the guy who slows down as he comes up on something, but not so he can brake when he gets there, but so he can move forward very slowly and never have to come to a complete stop. I don’t know if this is somehow supposed to save on gas or something and I don’t care. Just stop it! And especially stop doing it on the highway. Believe it or not, you’re only causing the same problem to happen behind you. When a Creeper does his thing behind a line of slow moving traffic, the cars behind him are approaching him at normal highway speeds (65 MPH.) They are suddenly forced to slow way down and begin crawling along behind him. So the same kind of obstruction ahead of him is beginning to form directly behind him. Think of a garden hose pouring water into a funnel. The hose is set to the optimum point where water flows down out of the funnel at the same rate at which it enters. (The Calculus can be used to determine how much water is in the funnel at any given point, but you won’t need it for this thought experiment.) Now that it’s at equilibrium, try putting a half cork in the bottom of the funnel, blocking about half of it but letting water flow through the bottom. Don’t change the rate at which water enters the funnel. Now see what happens. The water level in the funnel begins to rise. It rises because less water is flowing out of the bottom of the funnel than is flowing in. Eventually the water will reach the top of the funnel and if you don’t want it to overflow, you’ll have to turn down the hose, or possibly even turn it off. The cork represents the Creeper, and the water coming out of the hose represents the cars approaching him at a much higher speed. If they don’t want to crash into the cars ahead of them (overflow the rim of the funnel), they’ll have to slow way down or even stop (turn the hose down or off.) As if it couldn’t be worse, once the obvious cause of the slowdown has been passed, the Creeper is often slow to pick up speed again. He also won’t move into the right hand lane and sometimes when he does, he speeds up and becomes a Pacer.

I ask you. Are these people really necessary?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the bad drivers you’ve encountered, or any other topic you wish. Just don’t slow me down.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 26, 2015: Driving Me Crazy – The Pokey and The Gapper

I have to talk about these two together, because in combination, they often create one of the biggest headaches commuters face each and every morning – the Complete Stop For No Apparent Reason. “The Pokey” is, as you may have guessed, a slowpoke. Now, I would cringe at the accusation that I am a “Leadfoot” (or “Zippy”, as I’ll talk about at a later date), but I do like to drive fast. Safely, yes, for I do not believe in that bullshit that “speed kills”, but a little fast. (Speed doesn’t kill, bad driving does. Race car drivers survive fast driving all the time.) I feel that a 55 MPH Speed Limit for interstate highways, which were built when the national speed limit was 75 MPH, is too oppressive. I even think that 65 MPH is too low, but at least it’s a lot closer to the speed at which I like to drive. I’m not going to set myself up for a conviction for speeding by saying anything more specific than that. Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 19, 2015: Driving Me Crazy – This Isn’t Any Signal

“This isn’t any signal. It’s a direct statement. If it’s a signal, fine.” – George H. W. Bush, as reported in New York Times, Mar 10, 1980, p B10

By a funny coincidence, we’ll be talking about the exact same thing.

On every car that I have been in, there is a stick coming out of the left-hand side of the car’s steering column which I’m certain is gathering dust in some people’s cars. It’s the lever that operates the turn signals, otherwise more cleverly – and properly – known as “directional indicators”, on account of they’re for indicating which direction you intend to take your car next. And that’s the whole key right there. Until you use your turn signals (I’ll use “turn signals” if it makes everyone happier, until I have a point to make), people are going to expect that you’re going to continue doing what you’re doing, especially if what you’re doing is just driving along at a steady speed in the lane in which you’re currently traveling. [And unless otherwise indicated, and as will be the usual standard for this series of posts, it is assumed that the roads are clear and dry and the weather conditions are favorable for driving. So none of these, “What if it’s raining?” retorts. We’ll cover that another time.]

And that brings us to a good tip about using turn signals. There’s a right way to indicate to the driver behind you (let’s call him “Me”) that you’re about to do something other than what you’ve been doing the past several miles, and there’s the way too many of you who live near me have been doing it to the driver behind you (“Me”). The trick is to remember what the purpose of the turn signal is. (I’ll give you hint: It has to do with “indicating” a “direction”.) As most of you are aware, humans are not normally able to read other people’s minds. So if you decide that you want to change lanes, or take the exit off the highway, or turn into a parking lot or driveway, the odds are good that you will be slowing down or speeding up, and that being the case, it’s certain that the people around you (“Me”) have no clue what you’re about to do. So we ought to have some indication that things are about to change. Don’t you think? I mean, who really likes it when the guy just ahead and to your right decides he wants to slide into your lane right in front of you without telling you ahead of time he was going to do that? I know I don’t, which is why I don’t do it to others. (It’s am important rule that people with my religious beliefs try to employ. You might say it’s Golden to us. Except we don’t expect a reward after we’re dead for following it.) That leads us to the next driving rule:

Wayne’s Driving Rule #2
The correct sequence for making a lane change or a turn off onto an exit or into a driving way or parking lot is:
1. Turn on signal (the correct one)
2. Appropriately apply brakes or speed up
3. Change lanes or make turn

1-2-3. Not 2-1-3. Not 2-3-1. And certainly not 3-2-1. It’s 1-2-3. Now, you may ask, “How much time should I allow between Steps 1 and 2?” In fact you should ask it. Go ahead. Ask it. I’ll wait.

I’m glad you asked. Experts disagree. New York State law requires you to have your signal on for at least the last one hundred feet before making the actual maneuver, but I say that’s too short a time. At 60 MPH, you are traveling 88 feet every second. (You are also driving too slowly and could cause traffic to come to a stop behind you on the highway, but we’re going to cover that next week.) So it only takes you about 1.136 seconds to travel 100 feet. And if the driver behind you (“Me”) was to be driving at a hypothetical speed of 80 MPH, he would travel 100 feet in a little over 0.85 seconds. I have quick reflexes, but that that quick. So rather than using distance to determine how far ahead to apply your signal, I say you should use time. You should apply your signal at least five seconds ahead of when you intend to make your move (assuming you aren’t swerving out the way to avoid something in the road, such as the debris from the car at which I fired one of my nerd-designed missiles), but no more than ten seconds. If you leave it on more than ten seconds, it’s quite probable that everyone, including yourself, will forget that it’s on. But the main thing is to avoid flipping it on at literally the last moment, even though that’s what New York State law allows.

You see, it really doesn’t do anybody any good if you wait until you’ve already hit the brakes and started turning your wheel to flip on the turn signal telling the driver behind you (“Me”) that you’re about to make a turn, when the fact that you are in the process of making that turn already gave it away. How much help do you think flipping on the signal last is going to do? The purpose of a directional indicator is to indicate to the people around you which direction you intend to go, not which direction you already started going. The only good applying it after you made your move does is to confirm that, yes, you don’t know how to drive properly. The fact that you were probably taught to drive by your parents, who didn’t know how to drive, either, is the reason our car insurance rates are so high. The fact that driving has become such an essential part of American life is reason enough to require all future drivers be taught by professionals, not by someone who leaves the turn signal on for ten miles. No, if you already have your license you will be grandfathered in, even if you’re a grandfather.

And by all means, do use that signal if you’re doing anything that would come across as “unexpected” to the non-psychic behind you (“Me”). That includes pulling over to the side of the road. That would be one of those excellent occasions where some way of telling the guy behind you (“Me”) that he can swing around you and get on with his life would be appreciated. It’s just like you’re turning into a driveway, except you’re not actually turning into a driveway. But you still have to put on the signal (I’m guessing it’s going to be to the right), then apply the brakes, then slide off to the side of the road, preferably far enough off so that your car won’t be sticking out into the lane. That reminds me. Why do so many people think they don’t need to use their turn signals if they’re taking a right-hand exit off the highway, or moving into the lane to their right, or making a right-hand turn at an intersection? You still have to let the enraged maniac behind you (“Me”) know what you intend to do, especially if it’s going to involve slowing down, which I’m pretty sure that guy behind you (“Me”) doesn’t want to do.

But you know, turn signals aren’t just for indicating a complete change in direction (such as perpendicular to the one you were going). They’re also good for letting the cars around you driving at speeds in excess of 65 MPH (and the legal speed limit) that you’re considering cutting over in front of the car moving up swiftly in the lane to your left (“Me”). Now, in these cases, it isn’t always necessary to hit the brakes, but you still want to turn on that signal a few seconds before you make the actual maneuver. Again, once your car has already swung over in front of mine, causing me to either brake fiercely, swear loudly, crap pungently, or perhaps some combination of all three, what’s the goddamn point of putting on your turn signal then? It’s not like you’re preparing me for something. The best thing is to glance in your side view (and rear view) mirrors, turn your head to check your blind spot, hit the signal, then wait a beat or two before making your move. And for crying out loud, if you’re going to move over into a lane of traffic that’s going faster than you were, do hit the gas and speed up. (Remember Wayne’s Driving Rule #1.) Otherwise there was no point in moving over in front of the impatient asshole coming up hard on your ass (“Me”).

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss bad turn signal users, bad presidential candidates, bad breath, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 12, 2015: Driving Me Crazy – The Pacer

Well, lucky you, Dear Readers. Over the next few Saturdays, I’m going to tell you about those idiots out there who don’t know how to drive properly. Oh, the things I’ve seen. Worse still, the things I’ve heard about. Well, I’m going to tell you where some of your fellow citizens and non-citizens alike are going wrong. I’ll introduce you to the vast array of Driver Types that I’ve created over the years (well, “created” in the sense that I thought of them myself and didn’t steal them from anybody, even though someone else might have thought of them, too) including “The Gapper”, “The Pokey” and, today’s target, “The Pacer”. (By the way, how do I know it’s not one of you I’ll be writing about? Because I know that you are all smart people, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the people of whom I’ll be writing, it’s this: They’re not very bright.)

A Pacer is one of those people who Continue reading