high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

This post would be good to read at 10:00 and 2:00

The first snowfall, a yearly event closely followed by the
first complaint about people driving in the snow
The impetus for the topic of this blog post has not really come about in full force as yet, and the reason is global warming, or at least what people refer to as global warming whenever there is a relatively warm day from December through March.  As everyone knows, with a rising average temperature comes less snow year after year, because if it isn't cold, then there can't be snow.  Well, it has not yet snowed in Columbus this year.  As a result, a time-honored tradition of office conversation, social gatherings, and lone individuals talking to themselves everywhere has been put on hold.  This is the tradition of indignantly pointing out how people can't f*cking drive.

I'm sure you are familiar with this phenomenon regardless of your location, because it seems to me that everybody everywhere believes that their city, town, or village is a city, town, or village full of horrendously bad drivers.  Each year when there is a first snowfall, it is only a matter of time before someone feels compelled to point out that "there has been a first snowfall, and now we're all in for it, because when there's the least bit of snow on the ground people around here act likes it's a big deal and well, there's simply no other way to say it, people can't f*cking drive."  Usually it is the same person each year who makes this proclamation, followed by some self-satisfied laughter.

While this phenomenon is most prevalent during the winter when it snows, much like the Christmas spirit it need not be limited to just one season.  No, such statements can be bandied about year-round.  Whenever there is a bit of springtime rain, for example.  Or perhaps during the summer vacationing season when there is more traffic on the roads.  Another common occasion is when you're a bit late for work and people aren't going fast enough for your taste.  Also much like the Christmas spirit, such thoughts and feelings can be spread from person to person.  This could naturally culminate in everyone in a particular city, town, or village talking about how people in that particular city, town, or village can't drive, and everyone agreeing with each other on this point.

While "people around here" are usually the target of the complaints, some critics venture further afield.  I believe I've now heard exclamations that people in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky can't drive.  These were separate statements for each state, not one person going down the list.  Maybe Pennsylvania drivers are actually pretty good, but it seems more likely that they too will join their brethren before long, thus covering the heart of the midwest from Philadelphia to Chicago.  Florida is also famous for bad driving, but perhaps we are being unfair in thinking that it is the residents of Florida who are the problem.  Maybe it's just the people from Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky (and maybe Pennsylvania) vacationing there over the winter, probably in an attempt to escape the bad winter drivers in those same states.

The point that people seem to miss is that it only takes one.  That guy who you're cursing for slowing down in front of you in the snow?  Well, he's only slowing down because the lady in front of him (who he's simultaneously cursing) is slowing down.  And of course, she's only slowing down because of the chain reaction created by the guy 20 cars ahead who actually didn't stomp on the breaks all of a sudden, but rather has been driving at the same consistent 65mph for the past 30 years, winter, spring, fall, and summer.  But even if some driving error has been made by someone on the road, it's an over-generalization to say that the person who made the error is a bad driver, and a gross over-generalization to say that people can't drive.  Everyone makes a driving mistake from time to time.  You have, I have, everyone has.  When I've made a driving error with passengers in my car, they simply recognize it as a mistake and forgive me for it.  They don't freak out, unbuckle, and barrel-roll from the car to avoid the impending death that will ensue from riding with someone who "can't drive."  Likely the people in the cars around me who see me make the driving error are not so kind in their appraisal, and instead experience a sudden surge in blood pressure in their haste to scream about how people "can't f*cking drive!"

You may say to yourself "Surely there are some good drivers and some bad drivers."  And you would be right.  But the individuals who fall into these two categories may be the opposite of who you're shouting about day-to-day on the road.  Is the person who follows all traffic laws and speed limits a good driver or a bad driver?  According to those laws and limits, they are a good driver.  According to others on the road, they are a bad driver.  How about race car drivers?  You know, the professionals. The guys who do driving for a living, who are the best of the best at driving.  Certainly they are good drivers, right?  Well, these are the guys who will no doubt zip in and out of traffic and pass you on the shoulder in the construction zone.  Granted, this type of driving behavior will probably not prompt complaints, only because you were totally caught off guard when it happened, having chosen to neglect your rear view mirror in favor of checking the last text you received.

So what is the point?  Only this: The next time you feel compelled to say "people can't f*cking drive," take a look in the mirror.  But only for a second.  You'll need to quickly return your attention to the road in front of you to see the guy who just stomped on his breaks.

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