Sunday, January 2, 2011

go west...

Lately, I’ve been conducting an experiment.

No. I’m not a scientist. I’ve not been following any rules or guidelines and I’ve not been writing down the results.

But I DO have them stored away in my mental data base. And today? Today, I’m going to share them with you….

You are so very lucky.

I've found that when driving, there are basically two kinds of people. Those that will not, for any reason allow another to pass them or let another car in if merging. And those that will.

The first group, for the sake of argument, we’ll just call them rude. Or imbeciles. Or rude imbeciles. Take your pick. I’ve got a couple of other monikers that come to mind, but those I won’t share with you. At least here, for now.

These people intentionally pass on the right in order to get one lousy car ahead. They are menaces on the road. They should all be ticketed and forced to take their driving tests again, which I would assume they would fail. Miserably.

Then there are the second group. They are courteous drivers that allow others to merge. They follow the rules of the road and aren’t menaces. They don’t create accidents. They aren’t involved in road rage. They make their driving school instructors proud.

We’ll call these people kind.

These kind people will wave in another car trying to get on the road from the gas station. “Go ahead…c’mon in.” As you might imagine, I fall into this category. I wave and smile and they usually wave back in return.

Mankind helping other mankind. Being polite. Helping out. Pay it forward. Whatever you want to call it….It’s a good thing.

But mankind seems to be really, really bad of late. Is it the holiday stress? Or are people just being less polite? Are people just focused more on themselves and not about the big picture?

I’ve encountered more and more of those from the first rude imbecile category. My commute is longer with this new position and I’ve been traveling over to the ‘East Side’ a lot. In Cleveland they have a joke about crossing the river. Eastsiders don’t come west and westsiders don’t go east. No one crosses the mighty Cuyahoga River and mingles. It just isn’t done.

Now, I’m not a native Clevelander, although I’ve lived here most of my adult life, so these rules don’t necessarily apply to me.

I go where I want to, damnit.

I’ve friends that live on the Eastside. But they used to live west. Then they lost their minds and moved back across the river. Funny thing is that once they’ve moved, I don’t see them as much as I used to. And it’s only 12 miles away…

Fact is, when I interviewed for this job that is taking me into the forbidden land, Patti said with a wry look on her face, “The position is on the East side. Is that okay?” Patti’s a westsider as well. She understands that this might have been a deal breaker.

But it wasn’t. Isn’t. At least so far. However, if this bad manner road rage rude imbecile behavior continues….I might need to reassess.

On the west side, things seem to be a bit more relaxed. A little less frantic. There are seemingly less cars! Maybe because things aren’t as congested on the west side….a little more sprawling, that it just appears to be…less. There are so many damn cars on the east side, traffic is always a mess. Add to it the holiday shopping and you've got yourself one huge cluster f...well, you know. Just trying to leave the stores complex it takes ten minutes to get through the light. Another ten minutes to make it to the next light. And then fifteen more minutes to go the two miles to the highway. God help you if you are trying to leave a gas station. Your headlamps could be shining directly into the passenger window of someone on the road and they won’t even turn to look at you.

Like what happened a few days ago.

I was running low on gas and after that several hour commute when the winter storm hit the northwest a few weeks ago, I don’t like to let my car go less than a quarter tank. During that 3 hour trek home I saw several cars just ditched where they were because in the gridlock of traffic they just had no more juice.

So I decided to stop onmy way home. Not a big deal. There WAS a lot of traffic. But the gas station was on the right hand side of the street, it shouldn’t be a hard thing to slip off, fill up and slip back into the line of traffic.


I had to wait for the pump to open.

No problem. I’ve got patience. I didn't have any particular deadline to be home at a certain time. I watched as he filled up his car. Then he went inside to get some wiper fluid. Okay, no problem. Good idea really, but it was sleeting and not today. Note to self…maybe tomorrow, or when you get home check the wiper fluid levels. Then he went back into the station to get a beverage, checked his pockets on the way back to the car and went back into the store again. This time he was carrying a candy bar as well.

C’mon already. MOVE YOUR CAR and THEN go and buy supplies. Can’t you see there are people waiting for the pump? Geez.

So finally, he moves his car. I start to pull forward and bam! Another car zips around from the left and into my space! The one I've been waiting for! Are you kidding me? She won’t look at me. I'm practically glaring at her. I pull as far forward as I can so there is no way that she CAN’T see me. I want her to know and feel badly about taking my place in the queue for the pump. When she finishes she waves me off as if I will back up to let her out. No way chicky. Back her back there, Virgil. Let’s see if you even can. Hahahaha. Who's inconvienced now!

Even this little incident isn’t going to get to me. I’m humming as I fill up my car. I’ve the next 3 days off. Life is good. I finish up and approach the road. Traffic is rather heavy and it is snowing pretty hard now, but as I sit there waiting for a chance or break in traffic to reenter on the roadway….no one will let me out.

No one will stop and leave enough room for me to merge.

I drive a Jeep Commander. It’s rather big. There is no way that I can’t be seen.

It’s big, but it’s not menacing like a Hummer. It garners respect without the heavy Moxi of “Hey! Look at me!!”

I sat, again patiently, and watched forty five cars in three different light sequences and not a single person would let pause or stop to me out onto the road.


These cars would stop and my headlights would illuminate the interior of their car. Would they turn and look? No. They wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was there! Amazing! “I won’t look, because if I do, then even I will know that I’m a selfish jerk…so no, don’t look at the car waiting. Don’t look. Don’t look….”

So finally I was forced into doing what any eastsider would do. I just pulled out anyway and MADE them make room for me. My Jeep is the biggest one they make and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let your little Nissan or Mazda block my way any longer. I’m bigger and so you better damn well stop or move!

Of course, as expected, there were many hand gestures. Some that I didn't even recognize. There was much movement on mouths of those rude eastsiders. Their lips forming choice words that young children shouldn’t hear and most sailors know. There is nothing incriminating on my car that would let anyone know that I was indeed from the Westside.

Nothing, that is, except for my nice driving etiquette.

I stopped several times to let others out. Much to the chagrin of those driving behind me. By this time, their horns sounded like Christmas bells. Which brought an even bigger smile to my face as I knew I had gotten their Christmas goat.

As I was on my way to work the other day, accompanying me the entire commute was a woman in a white Cadillac Escalade. She looked more the part of a Texas Oil mans wife than someone living up in Cleveland….big blond tresses that she kept flipping. She had enormous black Chanel sunglasses taking up the majority of her face. At several intervals she would check the rear view mirror, not for traffic, but to make sure her lipstick and makeup was ‘just so’.

I got a kick out of watching Ms. Texas driving the shoreway. Zipping from the far left lane to the far right in order to pass two cars and get back over into the far left lane again.

I’m a pretty 'steady as she goes' good driver. Ask anyone. When I learned how to drive I was taught to always look ahead, plan your route, know your perimeters…like playing chess. I see where cars are moving and what lane to be in or not to be in. Several times Ms Texas would get stuck behind slow movers and I’d be then in front of her again only to see her zip by once she finagled herself out of the jam.

I looked at her license plate. It read HYM8NX.

I pondered this for a time. What did that mean? I wasn’t surprised by the vanity plate in and of itself…but what did it say? Surely it wasn’t cryptic enough or clever enough that I couldn’t figure it out.

High Maintenance.

The plate read High Maintenance.

I laughed and laughed and thought ‘How fucking perfect is that!”

I see Ms High Maintenance every so often on my drive over to the east side. She obviously has been doing it longer than I have and has taken on the driving style of the east. I’m starting to learn myself…but it’s not easy.

I still let people in and those behind me honk their horns and wave their arms. It’s not a happy wave. Even those that I let out over on the east side don’t acknowledge the courtesy. They just expect it. They don’t wave or smile.

It has started a whole ‘nuther study for me.

I now smile at people in other cars to see what their reaction will be. So far I get nothing back. Pretty soon they might just have me committed.

Not to an asylum…

But committed to staying on the Westside where the people are kinder. More forgiving and they smile and let people in.

I’m definitely a westsider...