Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unbelievably annoying

Last Thursday, I declared last week to be Rant Week. Alex, from whom I stole the idea of theme weeks, informed me that you can't declare a theme after the fact, and that the best I could do was declare last week a prequel to the Official Rant Week, which would then have to be this week. Since I'm new to the whole theme week thing, I guess I have no choice but to comply. Besides, even though I'm not feeling as grumpy as I did last week, I don't have any better ideas for what to blog about, plus I got a few more ideas for some rants.

Before I get into Official Rant Week, however, I was admonished by my wife to include a disclaimer, which I will do by recounting what we did Friday evening. (No, not that. But I bet if I blogged about that it would be way more popular than this blog, not because the content would be particularly interesting, but just because perverts outnumber people obsessed with cycling and backcountry skiing on the interwebs.)

Friday evening, Rachel and I went on a walk in City Creek Canyon. While we were walking I told her about how this week was going to be Official Rant Week. She said nothing but drifted a little further away from me. Now I'm usually a butcher paper and crayons kind of guy and need things spelled out explicitly and in the simplest way possible. But we've been married long enough that I picked up this little body language cue and knew it meant she wasn't happy with me (I know, I'm brilliant, huh?).

What it came down to was that when I go off on these rants, if they include things I don't like about other people, that makes her think I don't like other people. And when she thinks I don't like other people, she thinks that means I don't like her either. Honestly, there were a few logical gaps in there I was having trouble getting over, but I figured I'd not argue rhetoric with her and just listen for once.

The discussion lasted a good fifteen minutes, but what it comes down to is this: I genuinely like people. And I like pretty much everyone I know. Put another way, I can't think of anyone I know that I don't like. That doesn't mean I want to invite everyone I know over for dinner, but there's not really anyone about whom I think "Oh crap. Him. I do not want to have to spend the duration of [fill in the blank] with him."

So if I happen to say something in one of my rants that you think may refer to you, don't worry about it. Perhaps you're right. But it doesn't mean I don't like you. And in most cases--the exceptions should be obvious, such as pretty much everything in today's post--it doesn't mean that changing your behavior should become your utmost priority. It just means that I get bugged by this particular thing and it may be that you happen to do it.

Whether the wrong is in the act itself or my being bugged by it is a question of perspective. I'm sure I do plenty of things that bug other people--including ranting in my blog--that I have no intention of changing. That's just life. In aggregate, I like pretty much everyone. But I think we'd all be lying if we said we like every single thing about every single person we've met.

Okay, if you're still here, let's get on with today's rant, which is actually a multi-rant with numerous items under the general topic of things automobile drivers do that warrant being punched in the throat even if they are never actually punched in the throat, ticketed, or even notified in any way that such behavior is unacceptable.

On Saturday I was driving home from the bike shop when I saw another driver signal to make a right turn when there was a cyclist right alongside him. The driver was looking at his iPhone and not the cyclist. It was a classic right hook. Fortunately the cyclist saw it coming and was safely able to slow and avoid smacking the side of the SUV. I decided the clueless driver needed a lesson, so I followed him.

Turns out he was on his way to the temple. I figured this was either going to be the most ironic fistfight in the history of ever, or, if the guy really was in a temple frame of mind, he would just take whatever I said. Because the meek shall inherit the earth and all that.

I followed him into the parking lot, and when he parked, I pulled up behind him. I rolled down the window and politely told him that he nearly took out a cyclist back there because he was paying attention to his iPhone rather than the road.

He said, "I'm sorry. I didn't even see him." At which point I should have just said something conciliatory about being more careful or whatever.

But being somewhat of a blunt instrument, I said "I know you didn't see him. Because you were paying attention to your phone. Pay attention to what you should be doing next time."

Should I have held back on the last bit? Probably. But really, how stupid do you have to be to not see a cyclist on the road that has more cyclists than perhaps any other in that end of the valley? Still, it's not nearly as bad as "I wanted to teach them a lesson."

While taking out or nearly taking out a cyclist or pedestrian is as bad as it gets for driver stupidity, these next two moves, while not dangerous, are unbelievably annoying. The first is when you're driving along in the left lane, traffic is light, and then there's a car in the left lane going slower than any of the other cars in any of the other lanes. This is bad, right? But then it gets worse. As soon as the car gets to the dotted line for the carpool lane, the driver changes lanes and goes there. 55 mph. In the carpool lane. Everyone else is doing at least 70. The only redeeming thing about this is that traffic is light so you can go faster if you're not in the carpool lane.

But that doesn't answer the question of why? Why were these people in the left lane to begin with? And then why did they go to the carpool lane? Are they just that stupid, or are they so rude that they are willfully trying to aggravate everyone else on the road? I don't get it.

Perhaps only slightly less annoying than using the left lane when you don't need it is not using the left turn lane when you do. Outside of residential streets and rarely-traveled country roads, most streets have a left turn lane in the middle. These lanes make a two-lane road half again wider and therefore make its construction half again more expensive. Why did urban planners design the lane? Why did the DOT agree to fund it? Why do we as taxpayers pay tax for it? Because it's in the public interest to keep non-turning traffic flowing, that's why. Which means that turning traffic should pull into the lane and then slow down rather than slowing down in the traffic lane and only pulling into the left turn lane just before making the turn.

I'm sure in some jurisdictions if you rear-ended one of these idiots that slows down in the traffic lane rather than the left turn lane, you could be acquitted by using the "driver is too stupid to be on the road" defense. A good attorney would explain that "the only way my client could punch the driver in the throat was if he was out of his car. And that was the only way to get him to stop." But it's a long shot case to begin with, not to mention a huge pain getting your own car repaired. So the rest of us suffer through it, even when, if traffic is bad, the butterfly effect of such a move is a 15 minute delay five miles back on the road.

So please, when you turn your car on, don't turn your brain off. And if your iPhone does most of your thinking for you, please try thinking for yourself when you're behind the wheel.


  1. it's hard to get my arms around all this. you have to PICK something to rant about, and that something can't be several bad driving tics, or "bad drivers suck." i can't defend myself against a bunch of bad driving accusations all at once.

    oh, wait, i didn't go to the big white house friday. i'm off the hook.


  2. Oo- good start to Rant Week! This will be a fun week.

    You skipped my favorite driving rant though: car in center lane being passed on both sides, you pull up and driver is either a) wicked old, or b) talking on phone, smiling, not a care in the world. Hmm. Does talking on the phone make you senile?

  3. Good for you for tracking him down. I had a co-worker that was hit a few months ago by some space-cadet SUV driver who wasn't watching what she was doing. His back was broken and he came about this --> <-- close to never walking again.
    More importantly, he came that close to never riding again.

  4. I thought that the blog universe was created for the sole purpose of ranting? I'm excited to see what you come up with next.

    If you want a good rant, you should check this out. Basically a friend of mine has a popular food blog in which she wrote a story about disciplining her child. A social worker (who's written a book so obviously she's the predominant authority on child-rearing), set her straight. Little did social worker know, the food blogger has a sister who specializes in vitriolic verse and let the social worker have it.

    This one is mighty entertaining.