There must be a special place in heaven for commuters.
Every morning – sometimes as early as 5:30 – numb, sleep-deprived working stiffs like me stagger out to our cars, cabs, buses, trains, or whatever else drags us to our places of work.
I spent a long time commuting with a co-worker. Our drives could go for extensive stretches without a word. Probably because I was half-asleep behind the wheel, or after enough time traveling together, we just ran out of stuff to talk about.
Like she had some sort of commuter turrets syndrome, she’d break the silence by randomly blurting out the deciphered code to a personalized license plate, or make a comment on a topic we stalled on a week ago, snapping me out of my driver coma. It was good, because I’m pretty sure I was in a full trance most of the time behind the wheel.
There was also an entertainment factor in it for me, trying to figure out what the heck she was talking about – kind of like ‘Jeopardy’ but without that condescending Alex Trebek telling me that I’m wrong.
Regardless of our conversation, or lack thereof, it kept my mind off the stupid drivers around me. I was so into my zen driving that I would even let in that jerk who just drove down the shoulder of the highway for the past 300 yards because his time was clearly more important than the rest of us. Oohhhhmmmmm… be tranquil.
Now that I’m back in the workforce, I’m left to my own dark thoughts as I traverse vast expanses of gridlock every morning alone.
It’s surprising how quickly that little red devil, ‘Rage’, plops it’s smoldering butt into the passenger seat and convinces me that I’m the only one on the road who deserves a license.
“Come on! The left lane is for passing!” I’d mumble, hoping that it somehow telepathically reaches the inept driver ahead of me.
I get annoyed with all the typical stuff. People not signalling, driving in the dark with their lights off, going too slow/fast based on what I believe is the exact right speed at that moment, cutting in – the usual driving sins.
Lately though, because of the distance I now have to travel, I’ve had a new little evil one join my invisible passengers. He’s the gas station grump.
This nasty little dude is way less accepting and patient than normal old road rage. He doesn’t even wait until a car is moving.
‘Gus’, as I’ve come to call him, appeared a couple of weeks ago while I was on my way home after a really long day. The gas station was particularly busy, and with the lousy weather, most cars were in need of a top up of windshield washer fluid and maybe even a quick washing.
This made for a long wait for my turn at the pump.
You assume a level of etiquette with things like pumping gas. For example, if a car is waiting to use the pump after you’re done, you need to expedite the refueling process as much as possible. Don’t use those squeegees to wash the entire vehicle once you’re done filling up. If the car is that dirty, go get in line at the car wash, for Pete’s sake!
When they invented ‘pay at the pump’, it was designed to speed up the refueling work so that drivers didn’t have to then leave their cars and wait in line inside the building to pay. It was also designed to reduce gas and dash incidents.
I don’t know if it’s the demographics of this particular gas station neighbourhood, but it seems like every driver, instead of opting to the quick and efficient way to pay, fills up, then heads into the little building to chat with the attendant.
Gus doesn’t like this one bit!
The other night, the cars were 4 deep, waiting to be fed. One gentleman filled his tank, then slowing started digging around the front seat of his car. He emerged with what I assume was his wallet, then sauntered slowly towards the attendant kiosk. Picture light gray smoke coming out of my ears…
When he got inside, instead of promptly making is payment, he wandered around the little store. He picked up some lottery tickets and a coffee, then to my amazement, grabbed the washroom key! Gus was FUMING by this point.
Of course, while this was going on, all the other ‘old-school’ customers started to form a huge line to pay by cash, which meant that my wait was getting longer by the second.
And that’s what it comes down to now. Seconds. We used to talk about the ‘New York Minute’, which I’ve been told, is the time after the light turns green, before the car behind you honks his horn at you because you haven’t gone yet.
Now, it’s like milliseconds before we loose our cool. We’ve become conditioned to instant response to things. Computers that lag more than an brief moment are called ‘slow’. Lunches are piping hot in a minute from the microwave.
Maybe that’s why we’ve become so impatient on the roads. There’s some sort of inverse effect on us. The quicker things get, the less patience we have.
People run red lights like it’s expected, especially when they’re making a left turn. I guess they figure that they’ve been there long enough, so to heck with everyone else, they’re going!
I think I’m worried about Gus. You expect to react to bad driving at times, especially when someone causes you to take drastic actions on the road to avoid an accident. Maybe we all have a bit of that angry rage inside us from time to time, but this new passenger who shows up even when I’m not moving is a problem.
Maybe if I fill the passenger seat with real, live people who have a calming effect on me, there won’t be room for Gus or road rage any more. At the very least, these nasty little guys might not be heard over the conversations about personalized license plates or half-finished discussions from a week ago.
Then, I might turn back into the ‘zen’ driver who is happy to let the other guy in ahead of me….as long as he’s using his signal indicator.