Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Called "Following Distance", Ya Jag!

A few facts before I launch into my story.

Fact: I drive a Jeep.
Corollary: Yay four-wheel-drive!
Corollary: Boo, utter bullshit visibility from the old, cracked, scratched up plastic back window.
Corollary: I can hear everything that happens outside my vehicle as though I were driving with my window open.

Fact: My "driving formative years" were spent in climates where snow was rare, and certainly didn't accumulate over a few inches (namely, southern New Mexico and southeast Texas).

Fact: People who grew up driving in the Greater Chicagoland area drive in the snow, and on icy roads as though it's just another sunny day. It's terrifying.

Fact: I've been driving here for about nine years now; I aught to be used to driving in winter conditions, but I'm just not. Sue me.

But luckily, I have common sense; it tells me I should drive slowly and not follow anyone too closely on icy roads, and I pay good heed to that sense. This strategy apparently stuck in some sports-car driver's craw (no doubt, a native).

I was driving to work Thursday morning, the day after our big blizzard. The sky was clear, and the roads had been plowed, but there was a thick enough layer of ice on the road that driving felt more like off-roading. People were sliding around like crazy, and I was doing my best to navigate all the treacherous road conditions, and dodge other cars.

I was halfway through Gary (a city derelict in general street maintenance even on a good day), driving in the right-hand lane so as not to offend anyone with my vexing attempts at preserving my life and the good repair of my Jeep. I noticed the vague shape of a smallish car out my ruined back window, driving way too close to me. A glance in the side-view proved it to be a small black Civic, naturally tricked out like the owner thought he was starring in Fast and the Furious.

The light we were approaching turned red, and instead of stomping on my brakes and sending myself careening off in some undesired direction, I began down-shifting to slow myself down; I rolled to a gradual stop about two car-lengths behind the guy ahead of me. You know, just in case. The Civic stopped so close to my bumper I couldn't see his headlights anymore. I suspected he did this intentionally, but let it go.

The light changed, and we began moving. I could hear Civic's engine racing behind me, and driving way too close. I could actually see the owner gesticulating. Ridiculous! My window is in such bad shape, I should't be able to make out anything but headlights! It made me nervous, but I ignored him and made my cautious way along. Civic eased up off my tail, and began flashing his lights at me. Was that supposed to goad me into driving recklessly?!

Poor Civic was in for a nasty surprise- I am not affected AT ALL by road rage. My attitude toward my fellow motorists is a pretty solid Whatever, whether they're cutting me off, creeping into my lane, honking, using the shoulder to get past stalled traffic- it doesn't matter. I'm completely imperturbable.

Anyway, since the light flashing didn't seem to have the desired effect, Civic left his lights on high-beams, and tapped his horn. The lane to my left was clear- he could've opted to move over and go around me at any time. I guess he thought laying on his horn was the better option.

I rolled to a stop at the next light, twoish car-lengths behind the guy in front of me. Civic rode back up my bumper, obscuring his high-beams. He rolled down his window and started yelling at me. Yelling at me! I couldn't believe it! Cautiously, I cracked my door open and looked behind me. He paused in his tirade. He seemed somehow surprised by me.

"Pick up the pace, sister!," he finished lamely.

"Just go around me!" I replied calmly. The light turned green, and I shut my door on whatever it was he was about to say to me. The left lane filled up, and he missed his opportunity to bypass me. He continued raging behind me, and I was not looking forward to the next stop light.

By now, traffic was dense, and he was attracting the attention of everyone around him. I could see the car next to me frowning into his rearview, and the passenger craning around to get a better look at the spectacle behind me. We came to a stop at the next light, and I decided opening my door wasn't a good idea, so I just sat there while he delivered his stream of abuses from his open window. I hoped he was freezing his nose off.

"It's called 'Following Distance', ya jag!" I heard another voice chime in. To my surprise, I saw the passenger in the car next to me hanging out of her window, addressing my tormentor. Civic replied something in a smaller voice. I didn't catch what he said, but the Amazon passenger apparently did. She thrust her door open, and stepped her nearly-six foot frame out of the car and stalked over toward my erstwhile traffic-persecutor. I cracked my door and peeked out as Civic was furiously rolling his window up.

"Oh, you not such a big man now, huh? Roll ya window back down and say that shit to mah face, white boy!" She rapped lightly on his window, and then (OMG!) tried the door handle.

"That's what I thought. Pussy," she said with a charming smile and stalked back to her car. She winked at me and got back in. Civic turned at the next light, and the remainder of my ride to work went without incident.

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