Let’s be honest: this post has been a long time coming. I live in New Jersey. We gotta talk about the driving here.
“But…” you say, “the driving is bad in lots of places. Driving in Manhattan, driving in DC? Driving in Boston? Those are pretty awful, right?”
Yes. They are. But New Jersey, oh you beautiful Garden State, you hold the key to my road-raged heart.
I’d like to argue – and I suspect there will be little dissent – that the NJ infrastructure isn’t exactly conducive to a calm and pleasant driving experience. I’m sure the engineers who came up with some of the intersections in this fine state were either well-intentioned or perhaps just out of their minds. Either option does leave a little leeway for forgiveness. But that you have to go 12 miles before turning around or even thinking about an exit, or that you have to make a complex and easily-missed series of right turns in order to make a left can make a neophyte’s brain short-circuit. Thus, my highly scientific hypothesis number one is that the roads create the rage. Cutting off three lanes of traffic to take the right-exit jughandle to make a left? Par for the course.*
Hypothesis number two is a little more psychological. Much like the internet, the roadway allows for a certain measure of anonymity. This is dangerous. A former roommate once posited that if we all had the same car make and model, there would be a lot less idiotic behavior on the roadways. It’s more difficult to create false vendettas when you can’t pick out the car/driver who just passed you. It’s also more difficult to feel entitled if your car doesn’t cost upwards of $15,000 more than the car next to you. And plus we wouldn’t have sports cars with far more powerful engines than, say, a six-year-old Toyota Corolla.
But how do you deal with these situations? Well, constructively, one would hope. Talking to the other driver is always a good option, for example. Cursing is most people’s solution; I’m not proud to say that I’m guilty of this on occasion. However, my verbal responses have taken other forms, too. For example:
- Never underestimate the power of screaming the word “Turdmonkey!” at another driver. You will immediately feel better, both because you got the anger out of your system, and you just said “turdmonkey.”
- If someone acts like they are going to try and cut you off, but they’re the ones merging into your lane, it is completely permissible to proclaim, “Get behind me, Satan!” as you do not allow them to pull in front of you. Smirking as you glare into the rearview mirror is also a nice addition.
- When you are pulling into a parking lot in which there is a sign that clearly states “Incoming traffic has the right of way,” feel free to bellow that at another car coming from the other direction who is about to disobey their stop sign.
The other day, though, it all became clear to me. Why are New Jersey drivers so…uniformly horrible? In a state in which I was sued by someone for being rear-ended by someone else, how do you get off claiming self-righteousness? Like so:
A driving school car pulls out in front of me onto the road I’m taking to get home from work, a relative backroad, although at that point it has two lanes going in each direction. Immediately, I allow the car a little extra space. They begin to veer over their line into my lane, but a hundred feet or so in front of me. Then they straighten out, and promptly cut across two lanes of traffic with no turn signal to make a left turn at the stoplight. As I pull up to the light and pass the car, I expect to see a terrified high-schooler in the driver’s seat, and a harried-looking driving instructor as passenger.
The driving instructor was…driving. Say what you will about “maybe he was showing the kid what not to do”. I don’t think so. I’ve often heard it said, to my great dismay, that “if you can’t do, teach.” And, apparently…sometimes that’s true.
*Let it be known that I do not personally endorse this behavior, nor do I participate in it.