Attention, Discourteous Drivers

Attention, Discourteous Drivers

…And you know who you are. Explain this to me: How friggin' hard is it to turn on your damn blinker? Or to give a courtesy wave after some compassionate soul allows you to merge? If you missed the Wienerschnitzel driveway, did it ever occur to you that you could make a U-turn at the next intersection, rather than jump into the right lane at the last minute, causing the poor sod you just cut off to reach frantically for his bottle of nitroglycerin?

Naturally, we've all been guilty of driving like complete jerks at times. As essentially self-centered human beings, we tend to allow our mood at any given moment to affect our driving technique, which most often results in other pissed-off motorists, not to mention potentially dangerous driving situations that only serve to further darken our own temperament.

Perhaps we should all start taking a different approach. Let's call it "Zen driving." Or maybe, "Drive unto others as you would have them drive unto you." Or something. Not only will it keep you safer, it will make the world a better place as well. Ah yes, earthly bliss for everyone. Tra la la, tra la la….

Let's lay down a few basic guidelines for Zen driving, shall we?

Situation: A driver cuts you off for no apparent reason.

Do: Maintain a safe following distance and wait until you get home to send a voodoo curse to that person. (OK, not exactly Zen, but lots of fun in a passive-aggressive sorta way.)

Don't: Tailgate. If that person is as mean and nasty as you suspect him of being, he could very well decide to slam on those brakes and send your insurance rates skyrocketing.

Situation: Some idiot driving a stick shift is talking on her cell phone without using a headset, so she swerves dangerously into your lane, causing you to slam on the brakes while scanning desperately for an escape route.

Do: Honk your horn (but in a nice way) to make that driver aware of the fact that she's driving in a manner so as to endanger lives, and then keep your distance in case she fails to adjust her bad behavior.

Don't: Lean on your horn and struggle to catch the miscreant's eye so that you can maliciously mad-dog her, thereby taking your own eyes off the road and emulating the behavior of the very person whom you are attempting to punish.

Situation: You're in a lane designated for a right (or left) turn. The next lane over is only allowed to either go straight or turn in the opposite direction. Your lane is backed up; the other lane is not. You've been waiting an eternity to make your turn when a rather presumptuous motorist in the next lane stops just ahead of you, having sped past all the other sad fools waiting in the line behind, and signals for you to let him in. You think to yourself: "Is this narcissistic bastard's time more valuable than the rest of ours? What would possess me to do him this favor?"

Do: Just let him in. It won't kill you, and it's not your mission in life to self-righteously try to teach him a lesson. Besides, you know you've done the same thing before.

Don't: Refuse to let the motorist merge, hitting the gas as soon as you see the car ahead of you begin to creep forward so as to close the merest hint of a gap that would encourage him to cut in ahead of you. You'll just make yourself look like an uptight loser.

If keeping yourself safe isn't enough of an incentive to keep you from trying to penalize delinquent motorists, then consider this thing called karma, my dear friends. I have a bit of personal experience in this area myself, so allow me to share.

One day, it was Valentine's Day, in fact, several years ago, and I was — believe it or not — dateless. I was on my way home from school, trying to merge onto the freeway in stop-and-go traffic. A couple (!) in a Ford Escort (!!) refused to let me in. This made me angry. Maybe a little angrier than I would have been under different circumstances, on a different day of the year. Well, I managed to get over it eventually, and after moving to the lane to the left of the Escort and subsequently passing it, I looked back over my shoulder with a nasty face and a choice hand gesture, full of bile and malice. I heard a scream from my friend, Tasha, who was riding shotgun, and looked up in time to catch an eyeful of brake lights and slam on my own. But it was too late. I rear-ended a BMW, and my insurance went up 30 percent for the next three years.

Instant karma. Don't let it happen to you — the only way to save face in a situation like that is to laugh at yourself. But that's pretty hard to do when you're shelling out an extra 50 bucks a month for auto insurance, all for a little dent in the rear bumper of a '93 325i. Needless to say, had I been practicing Zen driving techniques, it never would have happened.

So, brothers and sisters, learn from my stupid mistake and drive with a level head and a warm heart. All facetiousness aside, it will make the road a less scary place. Besides, we should all make it our mission to avoid lining the coffers of insurance companies.

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