Monday, November 03, 2003

Driving Problems

A few years back, I wrote a piece called Driving Problems, under the pseudonym nuke-toting psycho, because that's what driving in Tulsa was turning me into - a psycho who wanted to nuke people. I figured that after moving to the northwest, these feelings would go away because people can't drive any worse than they do in Tulsa, right?

How very, very wrong I was.

This weekend, Elizabeth and I decided to get a kitchen table. Since we wanted one that went with our china cabinet (couresy Ikea), we piled in the car and headed to Renton, which is a few miles south of Bellevue. A fifteen minute drive at most. Shouldn't be a problem.

I should point out that, since moving, I don't drive nearly as much as I used to. When I was here without the car, I rode the bus everywhere. The bus system here is amazing. And, when Elizabeth moved, she got a job in Seattle, which is a 45 minute drive. By contrast, my office is 5 minutes in heavy traffic. With only one car, she drives and drops me off. Which works well, since she only works a 7-hour day. But, this doesn't allow me to drive very much. So I typically drive on the weekends - to the store, or to the comic shop, or, like this weekend, down to Ikea.

I've had driving problems here before, but it mostly stems from the fact that MapQuest doesn't seem to function properly in Seattle. Nor do the streets, nor logic. I've navigated Tulsa, Chicago, Edinburgh, London, and New York, just to name a few cities, and have been turned around maybe five times, and lost once that I can actually recall. Although I've never been lost in Seattle, I have gotten turned around several times. Typically, every time I drive to a new destination, either because the direction stink, or the streets are laid out so illogically that I have no clue whether they are coming or going. Or, as what happened a couple of weeks ago on a trip to Lynnwood, the proper exit, the second exit, isn't labelled whatsoever until after you're halfway down the first exit ramp.

That I can deal with. That's a personal matter, and it takes a suspension of rational thought to navigate what look to be typical streets (in all fairness, it's usually just piss-poor labelling that causes confusion). The drivers, on the other hand, are far worse. I thought about this today, and decided that while drivers in Tulsa are bad and reckless, drivers here are bad and ignorant of their surroundings, which I believe is actually worse. I can't count the number of times I've seen people cut other people off without using a turn signal, two cars almost collide in a lane because they both merge (without turn signals) at the same time, or just people driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Which doesn't even take into account the riceboys and their tricked-out pieces of shit racing everywhere, the soccer moms in their gargantuan SUVs cutting across four lanes of highway (who cares what I hit and who I kill? I'll be safe in my car!)

Yesterday, this entire attitude incarnated itself in front of me. I was driving behind a silver pickup truck, about to get onto 405 to head to Ikea. Three large pieces of wood (they looked like table-tops) stuck out of the back of the truck. Elizabeth notes that the wood isn't tied down, and suggests I follow at a farther distance than normal. Also, we note that the truck is a standard (by the way it acted at a stoplight) and that the driver was acting very erratically. I hope you can guess what came next.

All I can say is, I'm glad I backed off. He popped out of a stoplight, and the wood went flying out of the back of his truck. If I had been ten feet closer, it would have hit my windshield. Instead it clatters to the ground. At this point, Liz and I are all "I told you so!" and I bring the car to a stop. On top of one of his pieces of wood. Oops, did I do that? Then, the dipshit decides to back up - straight at my car - to collect his wood. I guess that he couldn't see a maroon Mercury Sable parked on top of his wood, waiting to get out of his way. So I started honking my horn.

People in Washington don't use their horns very often, and if they do, they use it with a little "beep." When I drove in Manhattan while working on The Awful Truth, I learned to love the horn. The horn is a powerful tool, and one that, in the right hands, can make even the most assholic drivers weep. When this guy nearly backed into my car, I decided to let him have it. So I pushed the horn button in, and left my finger on it. For a good ten seconds. I wanted everyone in a hundred-foot radius to look at us, and to look at this guy, and see my car sitting on the wood that could have come into my windshield and ruined my life. And I wanted them to see the numbnuts who could have prevented it by tying it down with a five-cent length of twine. And I especially wanted to see him backing into my car so he could retrieve his precious lumber.

They gaped. They stared, and gaped, and gawked. I stopped honking and drove off. I missed the turn to the highway, ended up looping around, and found myself behind the same truck as I merged onto 405. I hit the carpool lane and left him in the dust. As I passed him, I slowed down long enough to see what a moron looked like. I don't know much, but I know this: when it's 45 degrees and completely overcast, there is no earthly reason to wear sunglasses. Of course, if you're hauling wood and driving like you've got fire ants crawling all over your penis, there is no earthly reason not to tie your wood down with some twine. So that was two counts of stupidity.

I made it to Ikea without getting turned around again, but on the way back I took two wrong turns. In the Ikea parking lot, where you have to back into spaces to load your furniture, I was honked at (a pleasant beep, but a honk all the same) by a yuppie in a green Camaro with the top down, who had an enormous sofa stuffed in the seat next to her. It was tied down, but she wanted out of that parking garage, and when I stopped to back into the parking spot, she freaked out. She was about two inches from my bumper. I nearly got out of the car and widened that space with my feet, but decided against it.

The new furniture looks great. We had to drive back to Ikea today to replace two parts, but I didn't make any wrong turns this time.

Tonight, on the way back from playing DnD (a fantastic campaign so far, thanks Jon!), a woman stepped in front of my car while I had a green turn arrow. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting her, and the car did one of those screech-flop motions. She didn't even look up.

Like I said, bad and ignorant of their surroundings. I now firmly believe that there are worse drivers than Tulsa drivers.

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