Driving me mad

February 28th, 2011 / #cars, #observations

While driving to Clearwater, FL from Gainesville, FL on February 27, 2010, I got to thinking about the makeup of the people on the road. I got to thinking, and came up with this list of stereotypical Interstate drivers. I’m sure there are more, and if I think of them in the future, I’ll add them here.

The Scout. If you’re in a hurry, the Scout is of utmost importance. Generally, when people who are comfortable with speeding are on the Interstate, they tend to form “packs” of multiple marauders that rove the asphalt countryside, bypassing weaker commuters and leaving them in a cloud of dust. To do this, each pack tacitly designates a temporary leader to act as a wedge and forge the path between tractor-trailers, wide loads, and senior citizens who are unaware that their Buick can, in fact, hit 70 miles per hour. Of course, with great responsibility comes great risk: it is the Scout’s responsibility not only to clear the way for the pack, but also to keep a keen eye out for the fuzz. Since the Scout is usually the fastest traveler of the bunch, he runs the risk of being cited for his sacrifice. Sometimes, the system isn’t fair. (Note: On long-term voyages, the burden of being a Scout should be shared between pack members. Every 25-35 miles sounds about right.)

The Pace Car. You may be in a rickety old Ford Escort on a two lane turnpike between Uncasville and Norwichtown, but this guy’s in the pace car on the 497th lap of the Daytona 500. He knows that the second he pulls away from the long line of angry automobiles, the race to a green-white-checkered finish will begin with a roar. Until then, though, you’re stuck behind this guy and the truck he’s trying to pass in the right lane. Unfortunately for all involved, you’ll be waiting a while – both the Pace Car and the truck it’s trying to pass are cruising along at what seems like 12 miles per hour.

The Self Righteous Trucker. Some states have laws that forbid semi trucks from entering the left lane, but these laws assume you’re driving down a highway with more than two lanes. Those unlucky souls who are given the choice between only a pair of lanes, however, are bound to meet the Self Righteous Trucker. To fully understand the Self Righteous Trucker, though, it is important to get inside his head:

“Hm, the truck ahead of me is going approximately .00000000000323 miles per hour slower than I’d like to go.”

The trucker looks to his left and sees nothing. In his rear view mirror, he sees a rapidly approaching car, traveling approximately 35 miles per hour faster than he’d like to go.

“Oh well, I can make it. They’re my roads too, damn it.”

The trucker merges left and takes the span of 4.3 miles to pass his nemesis in the right lane.

The Eagle Eye. Even though the nickname might cause you to respect the Eagle Eye, don’t fall into that trap. As the Eagle Eye drives along, he makes it a point to remain abnormally vigilant for any sign of police presence: “The flashing sign 3 miles ahead in the dead of night? I don’t want him to know I’m going 2 miles per hour over she speed limit – better slam on my brakes!”

The Weaver. In order to qualify as a Weaver, you must fulfill three requirements: (1) you must own a motorcycle; (2) you must be in a traffic jam; and (3) you must be an incredible douchebag. Weaving occurs when these aforementioned douchebags weave between lanes (emergency lane included) of stopped traffic. I understand that splitting lanes is legal in California’s stop-and-go expressway traffic, but the lion’s share of Americans, contrary to popular belief, are from places other than California. So as I, an upstanding and patriotic citizen am inconvenienced to the point that I must listen to yet another installation of NPR News in my motionless automobile, the Weaver is rewarded for his brazen behavior. I guess this falls under the category of life not being fair.

The Police Impersonator. Unlike the Weaver, the Police Impersonator is not characterized as a moron because of a conscious decision to be a moron. The Police Impersonator is a moron because of his uninformed choice of automobile. Rather than choosing a painted, newer model car, the Police Impersonator purchased an old police cruiser at auction. But despite the inexpensive price tag, he’s paying for his decision, all right: now, wherever the Police Impersonator goes, he will invariably be stuck in never ending traffic caused by the inaccurate perception of others on the road that this is a police officer. (Note that the Police Impersonator is a touchy subject – some people are required by law or employment to drive these terrible vehicles. Some folks can’t help it.)

I’m one of these types of drivers. I’ll let you guess which one.

The Science of Parking

April 15th, 2008 / #cars, #observations, #random

In my twenty years on this planet and in our society, I’ve been afforded ample opportunity to observe the inner workings of life and the way people act. I am by no means an expert on social science or anything like that, but it occurs to me that life and success therein can be boiled down to a very fundamental science: the science of parking.

Throughout life, we all go through various stages. Be they natural human progressions like learning to walk or professional progressions like landing that big job with the fancy corner office, these stages are extremely relevant to one simple thing – parking. And while the type of parking varies as life plunges on, the issue always remains the same. Each one of us yearns for that parking space we don’t have currently.

I realize that this idea is just a matter of the grass being greener on the other side, but it’s quite telling to see how this simple science of temporary spatial occupation evolves as we grow.

When you’re little, you can’t walk. For whatever reason, the good Lord didn’t bless us with thunder thighs out of the womb, so we must acquiesce to the whims of our parents and park ourselves wherever they see fit. This is all well and good until you figure out that there is more to this world than the juvenile jail of your crib. You want a new parking space – a better space to your liking, perhaps with a view of WGN and Bozo the Clown and 24 hour security in the form of your favorite blanket.

Then, you grow to be a child of school going age. You’re driven to school every day until you see the sweet parking space the fifth graders have for their bikes. You want that freedom. And wouldn’t you know it, you are given the chance at a new parking space when your folks deem you old enough. Sure, it’s a bit cramped, but when you can ride your bicycle to school yourself, who cares? You have your own parking space which says that you are older and more mature.

However, these faux parking spaces, as necessary and wonderful as they may be can never compare to the thrill of having an actual parking space for, you know, an automobile. And to consolidate the boundless task of describing the individual steps that lead to the pinnacle of parking satisfaction, I will summarize every man’s professional goal in life: Like The Jeffersons, move on up.

You spend your entire working life climbing the ladder, jumping through the hoops, and moving ever-so-closer to the prized parking space right in front of the building. It goes like this until, through your immeasurable hard work and dedication, you can finally pull into that space in the morning without fear of crossing an executive type or incurring a fine from the Parking Gods whose power is matched only by the mighty Zeus or Athena.

But what then?

You get tired; you slow down.

You slow down all the way to the point where you look back on your lifelong journey from parking garage to parking garage, from meter to meter, and you suddenly ask yourself why you did it.

Was it for the fame? Was it for the glory? Was it for the money? No, it was only for that one parking space.

Maybe I should start riding the bus.


June 16th, 2007 / #cars, #complaints, #letters

Dear Friends,

If you know me, you know that I have a lot of weird, quirky pet peeves. I can’t eat popcorn. I like to set the volume on radios to increments of five, since prime numbers mortify me. And, of course, I don’t like people who turn around in my driveway.

I live one block east of a moderately busy intersection. It seems that if you want to go through this intersection, you have to be a complete idiot, since it seems like the vast majority of cars that pass through have to turn onto my street, maneuver their automobiles between the mess of cars that’s already in my driveway (At last count, we have five cars. This is unacceptable.), and back out. I normally wouldn’t have a problem with this, but lately people are getting more and more courageous.

People will pull into my driveway even when I’m in the driveway. If I’m taking the dog out or getting the mail, they completely disregard me and pull their two ton pickups right up onto my property. It’s especially bad when I get in my car to back out of the driveway and go about my mundane travels, and I can’t because some thoughtless old cow has proceeded to impede my ability to travel in favor of her own ignorance when it comes to basic navigation. It really ticks me off.

Therefore, I have lately been a master of the three point turn, such that folks would not see me in the same light that I see the dolts who rumble into my driveway multiple times every hour. And, my friends, I encourage you to do the same.


Seat Belts

May 17th, 2007 / #cars, #observations

I don’t get it. I see all these commercials on late night ESPN about cops cracking down on folks who don’t buckle up when they drive. I say this, perhaps as a recent victim of the fuzz on the prowl, but it really baffles me that people don’t put on their seatbelts.

I’m not writing this as a sermon in vehicular safety; I think that wearing a seat belt is a choice and that people should be able to logically decide what’s best for them, but why not put on a seat belt? Whenever I drive, I make sure everyone in my car is buckled up. This isn’t because of my fear of getting tickets or being fined, but rather because I legitimately care about the safety of my friends.

Anyhow, they treat this like an epidemic. It’s as if the police and media think that people don’t put on their seat belts habitually, but I can’t recall a single person I know who never wears a seat belt. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I only associate with quasi smart and responsible people.

I guess my point here is that if you don’t wear a seat belt when you ride or dive a car, you are a fool. Thus ends my profound (yet obvious) observation of the evening.

As if I'm not creepy enough

March 28th, 2007 / #cars, #college, #observations

As we speak, it appears that Ive got some new neighbors moving into the two story house across the street on the corner. It’s a really nice house; I’ve always wanted more than one story in my abode, but thus far, no luck.

From what I saw yesterday, the current residents had a few big, burly black men taking all of their stuff and putting it in some big trucks. Then drove up a woman of about 55 and what I can only assume is her daughter, who looks to be in her early to mid 20s. I could be wrong about these ages, though, as I spent the majority of the day like the neighbor who lived across the street from Sam and Darren in Bewitched – peeking out of my blinds to try to put together some idea of who these people are.

Anyhow, they’re moving in now and some bald young fellow just pulled up in a light blue old-person-sedan-type car. If he is my competition for the love of this fair maiden, I’ve totally got him beat. A Ford Focus could outsex a Mercury Grand Marquis any day.

Thanks a lot, Mother Nature

July 11th, 2006 / #cars, #random

I love my car. It may not be the fastest set of wheels on the road (I sold that car a few months ago, sadly), but it’s a lovable little car. She’s black, sleek, and roomy. What’s probably most important is the fact that she’s mine. It is for this reason that I trust nobody with her. I keep her clean as a whistle, too. There are no little bits of paper in the storage compartments, no crumbs in the cracks of the seats, and when there’s too much dirt on the floor of the car, I know that it’s time for a cleaning. But I don’t just vacuum, I give my car the most deluxe automotive spa treatment available. I let nobody else do this for fear of their screwing up my tried and tested cleaning schedule.

First, I give the car a hose down. Then comes the standard wash (I’ve used a variety of products for this, but I’ve found that most of them are pretty much the same. So, I use Zip Wax car wash formula by Turtle Wax.). I hit the roof of the car, go down to the rear window and work on the windshield. Lather and rinse. Then, I get the sides, one by one, and finally scrub the hood and trunk area. Lather and rinse. Then I dry, windows first and body second. I then use Meguiar’s Back to Black formula on my plastic car parts, door handles and the rear view mirror cases. Next, I use Turtle Wax’s specialized automotive window cleaner on all glass of my car, inside and outside. Then, I go for Turtle Wax’s wheel shine formula on each of my wheels, followed by tire gloss of the same brand. Finally, I go to the interior and use Armor All on every inch of the cabin. This rubdown is followed by a thorough vacuuming of all parts of the interior (trunk space included!).

I know that last paragraph was long and monotonous to read. I just want to convey to you the insane amount of work I put into my car today in hopes that the next sentence will have a profound effect on you and that you understand my extreme anger and agony:

It is now raining.

Nobody can drive but me

June 30th, 2006 / #cars, #complaints

Plato once said, “You are young, my son, and, as the years go by, time will change and even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from setting yourself up as a judge of the highest matters.”

Sorry, P-Daddy, but I’ve got a hankerin’ for some good old fashioned judging. Today’s defendant: the 60% of drivers out there who refuse to use their turn signal. It’s a real shame to drive down the boulevard to have a 2006 Ford Mustang cut right in front of you with not so much as a glimmer of the blinker. A nice car like that doesn’t have turn signals? I’d take that automobile right back to the shop so one of the helpful associates can take a look at the broken taillights.

I can see the argument against using turn signals when changing lanes – it’s not the law. Actually, my driving deviant friend, it is. The government here in the Sunshine State fixed this problem a while back. Observe:

“You must use hand signals or directional signals to show that you are about to turn. Turn signals are required when changing lanes or overtaking a vehicle.” (Courtesy of the Florida Driver’s Handbook)

Now, if your carelessness was actually a product of being misinformed, consider yourself informed. If your carelessness is a product of your disregard for anyone and everyone around you, I’d like to propose a hypothetical scenario.

You’re driving along. A Mac truck is in the lane ahead of you. A Mercedes merges into the gap created between you and Trucker Pete without using its turn signal. You narrowly evade death by swerving into the emptiness created by the Mercedes’ old lane. And while you may be safe, you are peeved. You spew angry words of hate, the likes of which your mother would never have uttered within 100 yards of her kitchen, and a fire of hatred builds in your heart. Mr. Mercedes speeds along his merry affluent way, while you’re left with an ulcer the size of a watermelon caused by the stress of the incident. Don’t you think the Mercedes could have used a blinker so that you would have ample time to either create room for the merge or speed up and ruin his day? And if he can go ahead and hit that lever on the side of the steering column, don’t you think you could return the favor?

I’m just saying that once everybody starts to drive in a uniform manner, more people will live longer as a result of reduced accidents and far fewer stress-induced sicknesses.

The plural is actually Foci

March 9th, 2006 / #cars

Well, it was bound to happen. The folks said I needed a more dependable car for college. So, Ringo is no more. He’s gone to the great trade-in lot in the sky. The people at the ford dealership gave me a paltry $500 for him, including the $400 stereo unit I had put in about six months ago.

But now it’s time to usher in a new generation of Peterson pimpage: Now, instead of seeing me cruising at the speed of light in a pretty red car that breaks down every few weeks, you can see me accelerating more responsibly in a car with four doors. Oh well, that just means I’ll have a backseat wherein I can seduce women. Lots of them. After all, who wouldn’t fall for me when they see me rolling along in a 2005 Ford Focus ZX4 SE?

A walk in the park

October 8th, 2005 / #cars, #highschool

I know, it’s silly. But there’s this one space in the parking lot at school that I find particularly nice. So, I do what any other sane person would do: I make my carpool get up 20 minutes earlier so we can make it to the parking lot by 6:30 and stand there for a half hour until school starts. Makes perfect sense to me.

Paul McCartney ate Ringo's head unit

May 2nd, 2005 / #cars, #music

Last night, as the family had dinner at Outback Steakhouse, the topic of conversation meandered down the path of upcoming concert events. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson are coming to town; so are the Allman Brothers and the remaining one-four-hundredth of Lynyrd Skynyrd; and, of course, who could forget Sir Paul McCartney?

My father asked me whether in my music interests I’ve come across Sir Paul’s first album, dubbed “The Cherry Album,” but more formally “McCartney.” I knew of the album and its cover art, but I had yet to listen to it fully. After obtaining it when I got home, I went to bed.

This morning, I burned a copy of the CD before I ran out of the door at 6:10 to initiate the carpool. I walked out to Ringo feeling refreshed and ready to start my journey to school (which, by the way, I only have to do once more this week, thanks to AP exams). I got in my car, put Sir Paul in, and was on my way.

However, the CD player spit out Paul like he was a giant bowl of that greenish marshmallow stuff my mother makes on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. After picking up Angus and fiddling with my testy stereo for a few minutes, we noticed that there was a plume of smoke spewing from the head unit. I assumed that this was not a good sign, so I took off the faceplate and hoped that the short would not spark and cause a fire.

Now I know where my first few paychecks are going.

  • Who I Am

    I'm a nobody from Florida with things to say (sometimes).

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