Biff America: Making friends slowly (column)
December 31, 2016
The right-of-way belonged to the lady in the Lexus. Had I seen her I certainly would not have pulled out. Unfortunately, my field of vision was blocked by a Matterhorn-sized snow drift. So that being the case, I eased out and did not see her until it was too late. I would venture to say that she was going too fast for the conditions, but again she did have the right-of-way. Luckily, we were both going fairly slowly. She locked up her brakes and leaned on her horn. The road was icy, her car spun slowly sideways and came to rest not more than three feet from mine, our diver's side windows perfectly aligned. My apologetic smile was met with a glare of seething rage.
Call me unreliable, OCD, or say that I have a silly string fetish, but don't call me impolite. (My wife hates that about me.) I hold open doors, make small talk while waiting in lines and often cause confusion by flashing my lights while motioning other motorists to cut in front of me. I don't claim to be a saintly person but, while driving, I'm usually not in a hurry and day to day, the best way for me to keep my sanity is to give my fellow humans the benefit of the doubt. Forgiveness is less stressful than anger and cheaper than Mace. So I rolled down my window and waited for her to do the same. "I am so sorry," I yelled. "I wasn't paying attention, but I'm glad you were."
I am not offended by vulgar language; the nicest people I know seem to swear a lot. I can hold my own in creative cursing. But to hear a well-dressed middle-aged woman suggest I should pull my head out of a place which was impossible to reach shocked me, though I was flattered that she would think me that flexible.
I responded, "That would most definitely improve my vision. But then I'd have to apply more sunscreen."
Driving brings out the worst in some, the competitor in most and the child in many. People who would never dream of tailgating in the check-out line at the grocery store will drive a car close enough to read your license plates by braille. The same sweet old lady who makes oatmeal cookies for grandchildren will cut you off in traffic. The automobile gives us two things much lacking in today's world: power and anonymity. The meek and angry can bully without having to make eye contact.
I ski in avalanche terrain, hike and bike on exposed ledges and once brought a chess set to a Trump rally, yet getting in a vehicle is the most dangerous thing I do. Many consider the speed limit a mere suggestion. I'm a firm believer in obeying the speed limit, (my wife hates that about me, too) not because I'm worried about having points assessed to my license, but rather, like biking and skiing, the repercussions of crashing increase with speed. An accident at forty miles per hour gives the victim an even chance to walk away — hopefully before the cops arrive — not so at eighty.
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As you can imagine, obeying the speed limit is akin to trolling for tailgaters. I've had drivers follow me so closely I could smell their breath. If possible, I pull over and let them pass; if not, I slow down so they'll have to pass me.
If America's homes are our castles, our vehicles are our war horses. When our space is invaded on the highway, we treat the culprit as if he had broken into our house. I once saw an old dude park his motor home at a rest area, stick his head out the window and scream for his fellow parkers to "get out of my yard."
We live in probably one of the better states when it comes to motor mellowness. But even in our mountain-town love nest of political-correctness 'agro-auto syndrome' is evident (particularly during the holiday season). Again, in my recent encounter the fault was mine and going forward I'll be extra cautious. We all need to slow down, take a deep breath and be more careful. And, if you do have a minor accident or a near miss, count your blessings as it might have been worse. A vehicle is only a mode of transportation, not your man/womanhood (and therefore less painful when cut off). Suggesting someone perform derriere solitaire is not the answer. The mere proposition is preposterous and can lead to a serious back injury……………
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff's new book "Mind, Body, Soul." is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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