Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I Hate Driving (Part One)

There is a healthy list of things that irritate me, most of which are sourced in the fantastic world of metropolitan transportation. Chicago's fast moving cars, buses, trains, and squeegee-riffic vagrants continue to mystify and amaze the author. In any given day's progression through our concrete canals, I'd estimate that I wish death and misery to at least a dozen buffoons who claim to have license for operating heavy machinery, despite the warning label stamped on the back of their hollow skulls. In the interest of presenting a type of living constitution for all motorists that I hope will be omitted from the Apocalypse's guest list, we have some participants/candidates for transportation's Firing Squad:

Pick A Lane:
Many dweebs love to center up on the dashed middle line of the road, thus claiming both lanes of a thoroughfare. Such baboons embrace a flavor of pavement megalomania, cower from curbophobia, or are just way too opaquely brainified to grasp the complexities of a traffic conduit.
Others, in suburban regions, had previously decided that by virtue of their impressive wealth and lengthy list of achievements, are too special for just one lane. But who's left then? Many others must ride up the middle of a two lane road with some reasonable incentive. I believe that since the lines in the road are so nicely dashed and painted in a bright color, that the psychotic behind the wheel must be exercising their fantasy of being PacMan. Hey, as long as they don't look back, their little vehicles are gobbling up those painted lines with impunity.

The Motorcade Effect:
Forget about having any type of view of the road ahead. Most of the time, when traffic is light, I'll still be stuck behind a buffoon's S.U.V. traveling at a hearty 15 miles per hour, while a hellish, 10000 horsepower pickup truck follows me with a safe distance of 11 inches. It's rather enjoyable to know that, at any given time, this majestic vehicular ballet can pile up into a mass of reinforced steel and whatever is left of me for comparison to dental records.
One might assume it's easy enough to slide over a lane, bail out of the mechanical sandwich, and speed away toward other hazardous situations. Not quite. Usually there's a bozo in the adjacent lane, rolling along at the same speed. If not, then up the road apiece, another slow-moving clown awaits, prepared to create another motorcade and another reason to pull out the pistol.

The Malachi* Crunch:
Fine, I had to put the famous "Happy Days" demolition derby team in here somewhere. While there are many types of crunches, a common one occurs when an idiot is poking the car forward, out of a driveway, ready to jump into traffic on a busy thoroughfare. At the same time, another idiot will be prepared to turn into the aforementioned driveway from the left side, and both cars are prepared to T-Bone each side of my car at the same time. It takes quite a bit of practice to adequately calibrate the requisite synchronization (especially without walkie talkies, as the Malachi brothers used). The adept crunchers prefer to execute this maneuver without looking, something I certainly envy, but would rather not be seeing it right in front of me. Unlike these knuckleheads, it just doesn't pay to look while driving.
*pronounced "Mull ah chee"

Old People:
I'll get into this much deeper at another time, but these folks are just all over the place. Plowing into banks, restaurants, houses, jeez... a carload of cornish game hens could steer a moving vehicle less dangerously than these old farts. I'd rather be on a highway full of drunks than octogenarians... at least the drunks have a fraction of their reaction time, and they don't use that "I hit the brake and the car accelerated" song and dance. Come on, Elmer, grab a three-wheeled bicycle, or buy one of those Rascals, and keep us out of harm's way. Terrorize the bike trails, the barber shop, the post office parking lot, or just run over other old people. But don't kill me because you still assume you have your wits intact. I know you've been driving for 92 years without an accident, and I'm sure the building you smashed simply jumped into the way, but you really have no place important to wander anyway, unless Albert the Alzheimer Sprite is really convincing you that a midnight drive into Lake Michigan is a healthy respite. Worse yet, we sometimes enjoy dealing with the feistier ones - those road-hardened old coots who don't take any "bunk" from us whipper-snappers, and love to shake their fists out the window when we crazy punks impede their swerves into other lanes. Our elders, insistent on their might and right to everything, seem to prefer driving those incredibly lengthy, clunky, cumbersome vehicles - the ones that a trained professional pilot couldn't even properly park. Oh, we're all dead meat from this bunch.

Retarded Traffic Ordinances:
I have to laugh at the stupidity that some towns employ when organizing their all important traffic regulations and road signs. First off, I'm certain that any time you see a speed limit sign with the words "Radar Patrolled", that road is guaranteed to be unpatrolled. I see these signs in the farther reaches of Chicago, where I'm certain it's a little too inconvenient for routine patrol, so they throw these signs up, with designs of fooling those crazy lead footed speeders into keeping cool. It reminds me of the era when the state police would park a state police car in a location that might be conducive to executing a speed trap. Theoretically, wild and crazy motorists would see the police car, assume there's an actual human inside, and slow down out of fear that the police car might burst into life and start a hot pursuit. This insulting attempt at traffic trickery lost its charm after only a couple years. It's pretty sad when they can't even fool the dumb people.
Moving right along, there are the ubiquitous "No Turn On Red" signs, seemingly propped on any occasion that a locality might find some scrap metal and a makeshift sign post. I can only see a few instances when this rule need be enforced, and implementing yet another low cost ticket generator isn't one of them. Pass-through communities, such as some of the smaller, neighboring suburbs of Chicago, have little else to generate revenue other than nitpicking motorists' every stop, start, and turn. An old lady could be getting pummeled to death by a fat guy's mammoth arm, but ten feet away, some kid will be cited because the bell on his bike was too loud. And forget about getting through these dumps without a seat belt - hell, they'll ticket you for not wearing a belt.

The Big Metal Asses:
Yes, as Jerry Seinfeld once put it, buses are the "big metal asses" of the road. Ok, fine, they do great things for the big wide world, like cut pollution, traffic, blah blah woof woof. But once cars switch to a clean fuel source, can't we exterminate these abysmal buses? They clog the traffic flow, stop every 100 feet, smell like a charred circus, and indirectly create approximately 60 million potentially dangerous situations. Drivers are forced to veer around these obese, irritating scourges of the road, and quite simply, buses do not belong on 95% of the standard, high volume two lane roads in urban areas. If you can find a way to build a special "bus tunnel" or even separate bus lane, you can have your rotten vehicular sloths. And what do these pieces of crap run on? It sure isn't diesel - I'm guessing a savory mixture of coal, magma, cyanide, and old Twizzlers. Whatever it is, I'm certainly more than happy to sit in traffic 45% longer while this loser box on wheels picks up an arthritic 340 year-old Russian woman on her way to death class. And once the old crone is aboard, can we get this stinkbox rolling again while Granny Stalin repeatedly drops her crumpled bus pass? If she doesn't pony up, just dump her out as soon as you pass the nearest bone yard.

Stay tuned for part two, coming soon, unless I fall victim to one of the above.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mongerers and Emotional Predators

It's funny how people foster such immense gratification from the empowerment associated with having a juicy bit of gossip, and keeping a circle of ravenous subscribers at bay, begging like a puppy for a morsel of dirt. Holding a potentially destructive nugget of news carries the scepter of superiority for those who have little else to brandish. Weaknesses and zest for temporary empowerment, in the souls of the weak, historically outweigh the implicit trust and morally scrupulous aspects of maintaining confidence with private information or news. It's the intangible difference between having a bran muffin and having a fat sugar coated donut. Temptation versus discretion. Despite the notion that the majority of us carry these values with the best of intentions, it merely takes a moment of indiscretion or another person's mindless bellowing to create gossip's subsequent avalanche of confusion, anxiety, and abandonment of trust. A few truly bad apples refuse to embrace any doctrine of communicative restraint, and pathologically harbor no guilt for breaking confidences or compromising predetermined tenets of trust within contexts of close friendships and privileged information.

People who assume too often, and in doing so, tend to assume the worst, either are too lazy to investigate, or couch a philosophy of negativity, and need to project that dank stench of acrimony toward everyone else's perceptions. It's a huge powder keg when a presumptuous, pessimistic person casts their predetermined doubts into reality and suffocate others with their haphazard conclusions. Invariably the innocent victim must jump to his/her own defense, convince the doubter of their erroneous ways, and shadow‑box against a phantom of neuroses and skewed recriminations. A type of cycle builds, as the presumptuous Doubting Doogie ends up excluded from otherwise rational cliques, and upon realization of being isolated, fulfills his prophecies of pessimism that either people don't like him or people are embittered and difficult to associate with. In a quorum of one, a doubtful, bitter, irrational person is the majority voter, and once alone, the homespun conclusions build with impunity. Worse, that person is usually lactose intolerant. If so, enjoy it ‑ when else can you use a fresh stick of butter as a weapon of gastric suction?

I hate hearing and saying the word "friend" about as much as I hate hearing the word "feelings". It's such a throw away word, exploited far beyond comparison. I love when people rhetorically spout "what are friends for?" so I can volley my "who knows" right back into their stinky little tennis shorts. In my usually doubtful frame of mind, it's surprisingly difficult to pare all the people from my circle and decide who are the ones who legitimately have concern for my well‑being, enjoy my company with no ulterior motives, and strive to keep the ledger of favors and obligations reasonably balanced. Being neither an angel nor someone qualified to wipe the ass of an angel, I realize that the burden of sincere friendship does not need to fall outside of my own boundaries, but after dealing with enough parasites and jerks over time, those boundaries fade in places.
Where boundaries are lacking, interpersonal functionality takes over. It's easy to fire dank questions over the forest of vagueness and think "Why do I desire this person's company?" For me, most people just enjoy the silliness I can provide, much like hiring one of those foul smelling clowns to entertain at a birthday party. They perform a job, fill a role, and when finished, head back home to prepare for the evening's rituals of porn and self‑mutilation. I don't mind necessarily having a particular type of enticing feature, such as designated court jester or mood lifter. But when taking careful inventory of those that surround us, it's usually but a handful of kind souls that have legitimate interests and concerns for our well being. And further yet ‑ why should anyone have an overwhelming concern and zest for our happiness? Aren't we all about looking out for number one? Nobody should be ashamed about pursuing their own interests and potentially fostering selfish motives. We aren't groomed that way, and most of the sacrificial types are either in mental institutions, monasteries, or both. Those are the ones that chose to decline purchasing the extra body armor and risk traversing the streets with their meager vulnerable skin as sole insulation against parasites, thieves, and emotional time bombs.

While it's amusingly easy to fall into the wrong circles, and suddenly realize that one is immersed in negative or dangerous folks, it can be amusingly difficult to realize the hazardous environment and deal with the confrontational backlash of severing the ties with these entities.
Those that tap complacent individuals for ego fuel are always aware that the "victim" will avoid stirring the pot, and allow things to continue indefinitely. For such types, a lifetime of slow burn is better than a short period of hot flash ‑ deal with the selfish individual, rather than risk conflict and stress with confrontation and a standoff. Any time I see a person in any type of friendship capitalize on another person's vulnerabilities, it irritates me in realizing that this faux exploitation and gross imbalance is bound to have a ripple effect, and burden other people in the support system.
In a larger sense, it's obvious that imbalance is the most effective antagonist against precariously forged partnerships, pairings, and similar relationships. The aforementioned tendencies toward one's exploitation of another's inconsistencies is a direct consequence of preconceived imbalance ‑ and those who seek imbalances in planting the seed of "love" with another are the ones to avoid. To pull this prosaic tractor of a litany full circle, it's the seekers of people's foibles and blemishes who also disperse exaggerated tales, rumors, and inevitably harmful and libelous nuggets of observation. A harmful, gossip mongering individual will observe two people talking, and once processed through that person's feces‑laden microbrain, a newly embellished tale pops out of the rear like a hot batch of yesterday's corn. A day later, enough people will have heard that a person is being unfaithful to his girl, or similar tawdry endeavors are afoot. Nothing good can come out of a nefarious mind but an entanglement of allegations.