So I’m driving westbound down Black Road the other day, minding my own business, when this car comes roaring up behind me, tailgates for a few seconds and then passes me on the left.
No big deal, right?
Only problem was that I was already in the left lane. So the jerk actually passed me in the eastbound lane, which was empty of oncoming traffic. I guess he felt it was necessary because there was another car to the right of me at the time, and we both had the audacity to be driving the speed limit.
As he flew passed me, I courteously flipped him off, and then watched with satisfaction as he got stuck behind the guy in front of me, who for some reason also was driving the speed limit. Finally, few minutes later, Mr. NASCAR was able to squeeze around the right of the lead car, veer back into the left lane and speed off into the distance.
Another incident of road rage narrowly averted.
Everyone seems to drive angry days. But then there’s a lot to be angry about.
Too many traffic lights. Too many stop signs. Too many potholes. Too much road construction. Too many drivers. Too many pedestrians. Too many cars. Too many trucks.
Too many drivers texting. Too many drivers phoning. Too many drivers looking at GPS instead of the road. Too many speeders. Too many slow pokes.
And, apparently, too many idiots like me. Idiots who try to drive defensively and follow the basic traffic laws. Unfortunately, by driving defensively and following the basic traffic laws, I usually end up enraged myself, mostly by the antics of the other idiots around me.
Take the speed limit, for example. I don’t care what the posted speed limit is, it’s always going to be too slow for at least 50 percent of the drivers on the road.
I often cruise the downstate hinterlands on westbound I-80, posted speed limit 70 mph. I usually drive between 70 and 72 mph. I’m addicted to cruise control, so I know this to be true.
Most times, I end up getting passed by long lines of cars doing 75 to 80 mph. And every few minutes by one going 90 mph or more. Some of the drivers glare at me like I’m the one doing something wrong.
About the only point everyone follows the speed limit is when a state trooper is clearly visible on the side of the road. Otherwise, it’s Autobahn time, baby.
Up where we vacation in Northern Michigan, the interstate speed limit is 75 mph. The same thing happens up there, except the people passing me are driving closer to 100.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I never speed. Over the years, I’ve had two speeding tickets: one in Iowa in 1982, the other in Florida in 2007 (though I dispute this one as a speed trap since there was no sign posted).
But then sometimes you have to speed. Like when driving the speed limit is in itself reckless because the entire traffic flow is going so much faster.
Like on the paradoxically numbered Interstate 55 which, believe it or not, has a posted speed limit of 55 mph from here to Chicago. Because, unless a cop is clearly present, almost no one drives 55 on 55. And anyone who does is begging for a rear-end collision.
But even when speeding, I try to practice common courtesy. Like using my turn signal. And not lingering like an old man’s flatulence in the passing lane. And veering over to let the frantic speeder behind me pass. And always checking my blind side twice before changing lanes. And not tailgating. Ever.
I got a thing about tailgating. The book says to maintain at least a two- to three-second gap behind the guy in front of you. I try for at least four or five seconds. Or, better yet, an open lane. To me it’s common sense, though to others it comes across as a phobia.
That phobia is readily apparent any time I’m foolish enough to get in the car with one of my kids behind the wheel. As pater familia, I’m given the seat of honor on the passenger side front. Though it’s more like the seat of horror, since I usually spend the entire ride white-knuckling the arm rests and pounding an imaginary brake pedal with my right foot as we careen through traffic.
Also it’s probably a misnomer to say I drive defensively. It’s more like I drive suspiciously. I don’t trust anyone to do the right thing. That probably comes across as paranoid, but such an attitude has helped me avoid being T-boned, side-swiped and rear-ended on numerous occasions.
Because there’s always going to be some jerk who believes speed limits, stop signs, yield signs, no passing zones and one-way streets pertain to everyone but him.
Notice I said him. Or some idiot who believes texting takes precedence over driving (ladies, this one is mostly on you).
So maybe driving slightly enraged isn’t such a bad idea.
Just stay five seconds behind me, OK?
• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.