Drive me crazy

When you work at home, most interaction with non-family humans comes in three modes: Telephone, e-mail and from behind the wheel of a car.

During most of my at-home career, I spent a couple of hours a day in an Oldsmobile with bench seats that my wife called "the living room on wheels." Our sons went to two different schools, halfway across town, and it was my job to act as their chauffeur. Plus, there are the many errands required by an average family of four, which mean more driving.

All this time among my fellow motorists has led me to this conclusion: Some people turn into chuckleheads the moment they slide behind the steering wheel.

I'm not talking about dangerous drivers, the ones you see on the nightly high-speed chases on TV. Those idiots should be forced to wear spike belts around their heads until they get smarter.

No, I'm talking your average Joe, your run-of-the-mill motorist who inevitably will do something stupid just as you're trying to pass.

Polls show that virtually everyone thinks he's a good driver. It's always "the other guy" who causes accidents. Lest you think I'm one of these hypocrites, let me be the first to say I'm not a perfect driver. I'm usually running late, which means I'm in a hurry, which means I attract slow-moving cars the way a porch light draws moths. Then I curse and fume and act a fool because all these people ARE IN MY WAY. Look in your rear-view mirror. If the motorist behind you is snarling and spitting and spinning in place like the Tasmanian Devil, that's probably me.

That said, my extended time behind the wheel has given me ample opportunity to study the sociology of driving. I've begun to categorize other drivers and to avoid those who fall into one of the following types:

--Old Guy in a Hat. Men used to make jokes about women drivers, until enough of them got run over that they learned to keep their mouths shut. But my careful research has revealed that when you're behind someone who's going 10 mph below the speed limit, in the fast lane, turn signal inexplicably blinking, it's probably not a woman, but an Old Guy wearing a hat. These guys should exchange their hats for crash helmets.

--Granny Under the Dash. You know which ones I mean. Sweet old ladies who can't see over the steering wheel. They're so little, you can't tell if they're wearing hats.

(A note: We housespouses run our errands in the middle of the workday, avoiding the teeth of rush hour, just like retirees do. That means we have lots of time to slowly trail behind Old Guys, admiring their hats. I don't know why senior citizens drive slowly. If I'm lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, I'm driving 80 mph everywhere I go. Once you've beaten the odds, what the hell . . .)

--The Busy Driver. These motorists are much too busy to drive. They're talking on cell phones and adjusting makeup and reading magazines and changing radio stations. Driving just gets in the way of their demanding lives. A word to the Busy Drivers out there: The rest of us want to kill you.

--The Lane-hopper. These drivers -- usually the younger ones -- change lanes two or three times as they approach a red light, trying to guess which one will zoom off fastest when the light turns green. They pass at every opportunity. All this high-speed maneuvering allows them to arrive at their destinations an average of 27 seconds sooner.

--The Scaredy-cat. These people never risk turning right on red. They never pass slower vehicles. They're much more interested in STOPPING than they are in GOING. Despite all this caution, the rear ends of their vehicles often are crunched. Probably by impatient drivers like me.

If you recognize yourself among those categories, you might want to change your driving style. You might want to consider public transportation. But, most of all, you might want to watch your mirrors.

If you see me back there, in the throes of my usual road rage, just pull over to the curb. It'll be safer for all of us that way.

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