California Drivin'

DSRGRD 4 HMN LIFE... Wait, how many spaces do I have, again?

I was driving somewhere for my internship today, and while sitting at an intersection waiting to turn left I tried to think of what to write an update about, seeing as I was already a day late.

Hey, maybe you should do that update you’ve been meaning to write about how California drivers are terrible! I thought. You’d just need to spend a little time pulling together some good examples of the awful driving you’ve seen.

And just as I thought that, the light turned to a green arrow, and the car in front of me idled there for a good five seconds before I leaned on my horn hard enough for the driver to hear me. He floored it and zipped through the intersection just as the arrow turned red, narrowly avoiding getting T-boned by oncoming traffic, and then I was trapped in the intersection for another cycle.

So be honest now – what’s going on, California drivers? Are you guys doing okay? Did Good Driving touch you inappropriately in your childhood, and ever since then you’ve been driving like shit out of some combination of spite and self loathing? If so, you can tell me. This is a safe place. It’s not your fault.

If not, then come on, people. This is ridiculous.

After first discovering the true extent of Californians’ distaste for competent driving last summer, I mentioned it to some of my California friends at school. The conversation would usually go like this:

Me: Hey, so I’ve noticed that California drivers are kind of the worst ever. What’s up with that?

California Friends: What the hell are you talking about? California has great drivers. Oregonians are shitty drivers.

And this used to make me mad, but after six weeks here, I realize that it may just be a culture clash. Here is the Oregonian attitude on a few things I see pretty regularly on the road down here:

In Oregon, when a person has his blinker on and is trying to change lanes, the generally accepted practice is to let them in as opposed to pulling up alongside them as quickly as possible to prevent them from changing lanes. This was cool in Smokey And The Bandit when the truckers pulled into all the lanes around the truckload of Coors to shield it from Sheriff Justice’s line of sight; it’s not cool when I want to get off the fucking freeway.

In Oregon, we check where we’re going before changing lanes instead of just jerking the steering wheel to the left and hoping for the best. Yes, it’s okay to change lanes if you don’t see any cars, but the catch is you have to be looking at the lane you’re moving into to properly make that assessment.

In Oregon, we drive our cars between the lines, not completely straddling them. You don’t get a power-up if you drive over all the lines; you just endanger twice as many people with your monumentally shitty driving.

In Oregon, when somebody is driving ten miles per hour above the speed limit in the right lane on an uncongested freeway, it’s considered rude to speed up behind him, pull into the exit lane on his right, blaze past him, and then blast up the shoulder and speed away into the night. Fun fact: If you die in a horrible car accident while hotdogging it in your dad’s Mitsubishi Galant, you’ve still got a tiny penis.

In Oregon, we don’t weave back and forth through multiple lanes of traffic as fast as possible, squeezing haphazardly into the tiny spaces between cars and semis only to drift into another lane and blaze on ahead. That sort of behavior is only acceptable if somebody in your car is either about to have a baby or about to shit himself.

I’m well aware that I recently went on a tirade about how unfair it is to assume something about a person’s character based on the year they were born; I can see how it would look hypocritical for me to say that people born in California are inherently shitty drivers.

At the same time, though, in six years of driving in Oregon I didn’t have to employ defensive driving tactics, use of the horn, or my Emergency Profanity anywhere near as much as I’ve had to in the past six weeks. I take that to assume that there are simply far more horrifyingly bad drivers here than there are in Oregon – and that’s not me talking; that’s science.

And I don’t get why that is, because at least in LA you’ve really got no excuse to be a shitty driver. You can be a treacherous, backstabbing drug addict and still be a huge success in this town, but driving is something that you have to do virtually every day for a long period of time – I don’t get how so many people down here suck so badly at it.

When I was in high school I practiced the trumpet every day – I was never great, but thanks to the constant practice I was at least good, and certainly never as bad at it as California drivers are at driving. The musical equivalent of California drivers is me using my trumpet to club baby harp seals.*

*That, or Dubstep.

Does that image make you both angry and sad at the same time? Now you know how I feel whenever I have to drive somewhere.

The really scary part for me is that a lot of people in LA moved here from someplace else, like I did. That means either:

1) Oregon is the only place in the world where people know how to drive, or
2) Exposure to California gradually erodes your driving abilities.

So if I undergo some sort of Flowers For Algernon regression to the sort of driver I was at the age of 15, please use this update to remember me as I once was – a person capable of using his fucking turn signal.

Truman Capps wants to let his Mom know that he hasn’t flipped anybody off on the road because he remembers how you told him at an early age that you should never make rude gestures at other drivers because they probably have guns in their cars.