Help me welcome back Dr. Barry Pascal, fresh off a checklist of personal housekeeping chores that beset folks of our advancing age. (He’ll cover those in a future installment; it’s a break for all of us that none of them involved the lower gastrointestinal tract.) Today, he tackles another pressing social issue requiring his sophisticated analytical skills and offhanded wisdom. You can find Barry‘s humorous works for sale here.—EGF
By BARRY PASCAL, Pharm.D.
Humorist, Satirist, and All-Around Nice Guy
At first glance you might think this article is about the debate in Congress; you know, the debate about anything and everything. The Right is yelling at the Left, the Left is screaming at the Right, and those in the middle—well, they’re arguing with each other. Each side is calling the other names, holding each other hostage while blaming the other for not getting anything done. The President was called a liar on the floor of Congress. A former Republican senator who was nominated for Secretary of Defense by our Democratic President was accused by his party of taking money from American enemies. Both political parties blame the continuing sequester crisis on the other and, of course, neither has done anything about it. Meanwhile, the disadvantaged in our society are blamed for getting too many benefits while Congress is on vacation—taking another of their many paid recesses.
However, in this instance I am not talking about our disastrous political situation. I am actually referring to making left turns or changing lanes on the freeway. “Society Takes a Bad Left Turn” really is about left turns.
Have you noticed that, as soon as you activate your lane change indicator on the freeway, all of the traffic in your destination lane speeds up? It doesn’t matter how close those vehicles are to the cars in front of them—they just go faster. One could claim that the reason traffic speeds up is because of a change in traffic conditions and that the entire lane is moving faster with the flow of traffic. Yes, you could say that, but you would be wrong. How could that happen every single time I use on my turn signal? How could my car control the traffic flow of the lane next to me? I wish it could—the 405 would never be jammed up, and I would never be late to anything south of Northridge again.
Are drivers more aggressive? Has common courtesy left America? I think the answer is yes to both. If our so-called respected political leaders can be abusive, disrespectful, aggressive, and irresponsible with their actions and rhetoric, it makes perfect sense that a complete stranger in a lane next to me would ignore common courtesy and do everything possible to keep me from scooting in.
Not only that, no one cares about the problems I have in the cabin of my vehicle. My wife might be yelling at me for either following too closely or going too slowly, my GPS is criticizing me for missing a turn, and my airflow and air conditioning regulator should be taking female hormones. Between the yelling, the sarcasm and the temperature, it is already difficult to change into any lane on the freeway, even without other heartless drivers crowding me out.
I had to develop a new technique to change into another lane. To move into a left lane I wait until the car on my left gets near me and I turn on my left turn indicator so that the other driver has enough time to interpret and process my intention. That car will then immediately speed up. When the other vehicle gets even with me (and cannot see my indicator signaling) I turn it off. That vehicle will speed by and the cars following it will not speed up because they think that I have changed my mind. When I see a safe distance, I then quickly turn on the left turn indicator again and sneak in behind the car on my left that just sped past me. The car following will not be able to react until it is too late—I’ve already moved into the left lane.
I use the same technique when moving into the right lane or exiting the HOV lane (High-occupancy Vehicle, or carpool, lane). Driving modern freeways requires not only skill but also cunning. Dealing with a spouse in the car requires a similar set of skills, plus a dose of ingenuity. If you hear that you are going too fast, ask your spouse if she just saw the car with Tom Cruise or George Clooney drive past. If you hear that you are going too slow, ask your beloved if she saw the passenger in the blue truck ahead of you loading a rifle. When your bride complains about you missing an off-ramp, simply reply that you were just following your Congressman who was driving a stolen Rolls Royce a few cars ahead of you.
There are so many dangers associated with just driving on our freeways and highways, let alone those on the inside of the car, that you would think other drivers would show empathy, courtesy, and sympathy when you want to change into their lanes or make a left turn. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. It seems as if driving is like being in Congress—a lot of yelling and name-calling, and no one cares about civility or doing the right thing.
It has gotten so bad for me lately that I have begun hearing my Mom also yelling at me to slow down—and we were in her kitchen.
About the Author: Barry Pascal, former North San Fernando Valley Honorary Mayor and former Honorary Sheriff, owned Northridge Pharmacy for 32 years and is now retired. He has written seven comedy books and writes a humorous column for the California Pharmacists Association Journal as well as the North Valley Community Connection. Barry will start studying for his driver’s test just as soon as he finishes cramming for his rectal exam.
© Barry Pascal 2013