Double dumbass on you!

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A short thought regarding hasty bastards

This happens a lot around here. You’re sitting at a traffic light, intending to turn right, but the turn lane is several car lengths ahead and there’s not enough space to squeeze past the stopped cars ahead of you to get into it. Just as traffic starts to move and you begin to turn into the lane, blinker on, a silver Lexus GS blitzes up from behind, driving mostly on the shoulder/bike lane, scraping the curb, leaving mere inches between them and the cars to their left. And there you are, moving into the turn lane, unable to see this silver Lexus coming out of nowhere, and you have to make a choice… dart back into the lane and miss your turn, or stick the landing and pray he has insurance.

I need to explain there are some places where the silver Lexus’ action would be perfectly acceptable. I’m thinking the ramp onto 360 from MoPac, where there’s a full-width shoulder. I’m not just using that example to justify my doing that, either. Not much, anyway. That would be hypocritical! Where you don’t expect it is where there isn’t technically enough room for a car to move out of traffic and onto a shoulder, or in this case, into a bike lane.

And when you decide to engage in this maneuver, and a car ahead has paid attention to and obeys traffic law, taking both hands off the wheel to throw a double birdie just comes off as weak. If you’re really that angry, just go ahead, ramming speed, and run that other car off the road. Be a man, man.

Oh, I see… it goes left AND right!

For the past decade or so, there has been construction on the flyovers from Ben White to I35. In 2005 or so they opened up the one that goes north onto I35. The southbound flyover languished and moped in a corner until some point this week, when, without any pomp or ceremony, the cones and signs were hauled away and it was opened for business.

The ramp from Ben White onto this flyover was always something of a Mongolian clusterfeed. Because the southbound ramp was unfinished, that traffic had to exit just past Congress and drive down the Ben White frontage road, then wait at a light to get onto the I35 frontage road, then drive a mile or so until the next on ramp for I35. Genius design, if I do say so myself. Thing is, this traffic shared an exit ramp with the northbound flyover. Southbound traffic would exit before it officially became a ramp, but the traffic mingled for a bit. Smart drivers who were heading north on I35 would wait to move over until after the makeshift southbound exit, which would often stack up due to the traffic light ahead.

Since opening the new southbound flyover, the “official” stripes that denote the exit lane have been moved down the road a few hundred yards. People pay no attention to this, and move onto what’s essentially the hard shoulder, only to have to angrily maneuver back into the line of cars that waited to move over according to the new striping. Then something funny happens. What used to be one lane of traffic, all northbound onto I35, is now two lanes. To quote Elaine Bennis, “How luxurious!” And it would be, if both of those lanes had the same destination, as half the drivers I’ve watched all week have assumed. The number of near misses caused by someone realizing at the last second that the ramp veering off to the right, toward which they are headed at 65 MPH, is not the way they normally go, and Oh Jesus! I’m going south!, swerve into the left lane, oblivious of the other cars that are already right there. It’s a dance. A stupid, stupid dance that makes the Macarena look like tango.

This morning took the cake, though. It was earlier than usual, about 7:45, and a Friday, so the traffic was relatively light. No potential catastrophes so far, until I spy a green Ford Windstar with its reverse lights on directly ahead. They had blindly taken the southbound flyover, and I guess a couple of hundred yards up the ramp decided it would be just fine to throw the old gal into reverse, drive back down the ramp, and rejoin the northbound traffic. Which would have been a fine plan in Khazikstan. In Austin… several cars that did intend to head south were now behind a rapidly moving van that did not seem especially concerned with the traffic stacking up behind it.

At this point I was myself stuck in traffic and lost sight of the carnival ahead. By the time traffic started moving and I got to a point I could see the diverging flyovers, there was no sign of the green van. Did they manage to reverse down that last few hundred feet past the dozen honking cars and rejoin the northbound lane? Or did they throw in the towel, dive up the ramp and onto south I35, then exit at Stassney, turn around and get back onto north I35?

The sunny optimist in me hopes they were pushed over the side of the ramp into the trees below.

When you’re hot you’re hot

A quick one…

Almost smooshed in front of my house. A maroon Mazda3 had followed me for a couple of blocks, less than a paper’s width between our bumpers. As I slowed to make the left turn into our driveway, the Mazda decided he needed to go faster than 30 mph through a densely populated residential area and started to pass me. On the left. As I’m making a left turn. I shockingly slammed on the brakes just as he cam around my blind spot, him swerving onto the opposite-side curbing and accelerating to “get away”. I might mention there are at least five small children who live on this street.

Jackass.

Some colorful metaphors.

Driving in Austin is like taking the Kobayashi Maru twice a day, five days a week. That might not be the last Star Trek reference of this blog, in case you sighed a bit. Maybe not even the last one of this post.

For a while now, the first thing my wife and I would talk about after I got home from work each day was all of the ways we were almost killed during the drive. While this infuriating game delivered some morbid catharsis, I started to feel the need to take my daily run ins with inattentives, distracteds, phone talkers, makeup appliers, and especially dumbasses to a wider audience. And feel free to add your own tales of vehicular woe. This is an open forum. Illustrations, cartoons, photos are all encouraged.

So to be fair, I have become measurably more tense and critical behind the wheel ever since I started carting our daughter around. I drive a Fit, which is probably among the 10 smallest cars sold in the United States. And I drive it in Texas. I’m sure there are plenty of Texans who would be more than happy to declare transporting a kid in any vehicle smaller than an F150 child abuse, and to a degree I almost agree, but that’s the situation I’m living with. It’s a tiny little car, but it’s not invisible. It’s slow and sometimes a challenge to get out of danger in ways that don’t involve ABS. I’ve concluded, after hundreds of near misses and a couple of non-misses, most drivers are simply incompetent. I’m opening myself up to possibly deserved criticism by placing myself on a pedestal, but I can take it, and I can admit when I do screw the pooch. Which does happen on occasion.

Anyway, the pitch. For now I’ll avoid listing my pet peeves and just describe actual instances of near catastrophe.

For example… Tuesday evening we loaded up in the Fit to head to Barton Creek Mall to check out dishwashers. Ours has been leaving an unsettling amount of schmutz on dishes, clogging, and generally doing a poor job of doing its job. Leaving the mall, we were first in line at a traffic light. I was in the middle of three lanes. The far right was a right turn north onto Loop 360, my lane and the far left lane were left turn south onto 360. The light turned green and we pulled forward, across the northbound lanes and began turning left into the outside southbound lane. The silver Volvo that was to my left at the light did the same. Meaning, rather than turn left into the inside lane, as clearly denoted by the white lines painted on the road surface, he started to come into my lane. Where I was. I looked over and he saw me, but continued to demand the space my car occupied. I honked, He kept coming. I had no choice at this point but to swerve to the right and jam the brakes.

Fluff you you goo-dang puppy fluffer! We’re watching our language in front of the baby…

It was an instance identical to this that actually promoted the idea for this blog. Similar situation with a light and the two left lanes making parallel transitions to a new road. A black Chevy Silverado charged from behind me into my lane, forcing me into oncoming traffic. Except rather than realize his mistake and try to run away from me, this guy hucked an empty beer car out his window at me once we came to a stop at the next light.

And just yesterday, a white Camry pulled an identical maneuver when turning left from Berkeley onto Manchaca. Again, full ABS activation, horn, eliciting a demure, “Oops!” look from the driver, who was more concerned with the iPhone in her left hand and the breakfast taco in her right. I can only assume she negotiated the “turn” with her knees. In a school zone. Brilliant.

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