Sunday, March 4, 2007

What would you have done? A tale of impatience.

As I said in my previous post, I'm pretty mellow now in driving compared to my younger years, to the point that I let most things blow over without getting overly bothered.

However, on the 4th of July weekend in 2005 at the beginning of a 300-mile trip to the beach, I encountered a truly inconsiderate driver.

I made the mistake of taking a popular local shortcut between two major highways. It's a residential/semi-rural road with a posted speed limit of 40 mph. Of course, no one likes to go 40. So I was going the speed limit and what I thought was an older Honda Accord or Toyota Camry came up on my rear. No problem, par for the course, and we're coming to the stop sign at the end of the road in a mile or two.

I didn't pull off while on the shortcut, because there was no suitable location, and I figured once we got to the major road with passing zones, he'd go around me. I guess I angered him some more (without realizing it) by slowing down considerably for an older, well-dressed gent who was standing on the right edge of the road retrieving his Sunday paper. I routinely give wide berth to pedestrians and bicyclists on the side of the road.

When I got to the stop sign to turn right onto the major 55-mph 2-lane road, I saw a Buick LeSabre approaching from my left. I decided to wait and let it go by. At that point, Mr. Impatient behind me tooted his horn. Turns out the Buick was going slower than I had expected, and I could have pulled out (not too surprising given that Buicks are stereotypically the car of choice for older people).

However, before the Buick even went by, I noticed Mr. I. sawing wildly at his steering wheel, and I knew he was going to try to go around me! Well, I guess male pride kicked in and I literally leaped into the intersection the instant the Buick passed and said to myself that I'm not going to let him get around me!

I accelerated my 4-cylinder Camry at full throttle, but to my surprise, Mr. I. went directly into the oncoming lane off my left rear and stayed there for maybe 1/8 to 1/4 mile trying to out-accelerate me in a no-passing zone! His front bumper could never get past my rear door handle. Yes, it was a dangerous situation not letting him pass, although the road was straight at that point and I could see that no oncoming traffic was present. Also, I was in total shock/amazement that he really tried to pull it off, since I had jumped out of the intersection so quickly and had the advantage of a shorter pathway.

Very quickly, I was up to 60 and closing in fast on the Buick. Mr. I. finally got in behind me. Beat him! Of course, at that point he was really on my bumper, but there was no way for him to go around without committing suicide, as we had entered a series of curves and of course, the Buick was still in front.

Now, I had no intention of holding him back forever, just didn't want him to pull that old stunt of going around me back at the stop sign. So when the first passing zone came, I eased off and let him go. But to get his point across, he cut directly in front of me, coming very close to my left front corner. At that point, I laid on the horn. Good thing he didn't brake-check me!

It was then that I saw he was driving a previous-gen Corolla. No wonder he couldn't out-accelerate me! I was pretty steamed though.

Well, in the next passing zone, he passed the Buick and was gone.

Later my wife told me that his entire rear end was plastered with bumper stickers. She didn't remember what they said, possibly something about rock bands. I was so mad, I didn't even notice any stickers. I guess the old joke is the number of bumper stickers on the back of one's car is inversely proportional to the driver's intelligence (after allowing for one or two freebies).

Now, in hindsight, I guess the best thing would have been to let him go in the first place at the stop sign. I certainly regret that I gave in to an adrenaline rush, male pride, or whatever it may be called. It ruined the first part of a nice drive to the beach!

But sometimes, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. What would you have done?

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