Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Driving Lesson

Last weekend, Ari and I made an impromptu trip to his parents' house in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to pick up the giant truck they offered to let us borrow for the rest of the winter.  I say "giant" because this truck is named Big Bertha the Behemoth.  They had been planning to bring it to us later, but we realized on Sunday night that it was probably going to snow this week, so when Ari got home from work we threw together an overnight bag and set off on our adventure.

Chattanooga is about three hours away from us.  If you keep going another hour, you'll come to my hometown in Alabama.  Since I moved to North Carolina, I've traveled this route many times.  And every time, I can't help but meditate on the staggering number of crazy drivers lurking between Asheville and Chattanooga.  Especially in Knoxville.  That place is a den of deranged motorists.

That's why, drivers of the world (especially Knoxville), I'm going to give you a free driving lesson, right here on my blog, because I know you're all regular readers of my blog.

First of all, you're going to want to take a look at your dashboard.  You may not have noticed before, but your dashboard is covered in all sorts of blinky, glowy buttons and dials and switches.

Perhaps the most important of these is your turn signal.  It's that thing that sticks out to the left of your steering wheel, unless you're driving some kind of alien space vehicle.  If you push it down, a little light on the left side of your car will blink, and if you push it up, a little light on the right side of your car will blink.  This alerts other drivers when you are planning to turn or change lanes.  No one uses their turn signal anymore, and I can think of only a few possible explanations.  Maybe you don't know what it is, in which case, I just told you.  Many of you drivers out there may be suffering from low self-esteem:  you think the rest of us don't care that you're about to pull over into our lane, or slow down to a near-stop in front of us to make a turn.  Believe me, we do care, and we're here to help you.  A lot of you might think you don't need a turn signal because you're infallible and you have the vision of an eagle.  The problem is, you have this magical area behind your car called a blind spot.  Wizards enchanted these blind spots eons ago so that even something as large as, say, a car is completely invisible once it enters this bewitched territory.  However, the other car can still see you.  If you use your turn signal, the other car can get out of your way.  If you don't use your turn signal, you will sideswipe the other car, and someone will probably die or sue you. 

Turn signals are especially important if you're a truck driver.  I don't know if you're aware of this, truck drivers, but you drive a giant truck.  You have huge blind spots surrounding your vehicle in several places, and you don't corner worth a damn.

(Fun fact:  Ari and I actually saw a truck that had scratched off his "How's My Driving?" number one time.)

Generally, you can't really see anything at all from inside a truck.  Which is why I was baffled when, right outside Knoxville, the truck in the lane to the left of us signaled that it needed to merge right, and then immediately proceeded to merge right, running us all the way off the road.

That completely defeats the purpose of having a turn signal.  Here's a quick breakdown of what a turn signal is supposed to mean.

Luckily, there was a wide, paved shoulder on that stretch of Interstate, so we were fine.  I don't think the truck ever even knew we were there.  He probably wondered why the douche in the black Focus was suddenly blowing his horn at him.

That was actually the second time I've been run off the road in Knoxville.  The other time involved my next driving pet peeve:  people who won't pass you on the right.

I know you're technically supposed to pass on the left.  In some places, it's even a law.  However, in Knoxville there are five lanes and everyone drives like his wife is currently giving birth in the back seat.  Passing on the left is laughable.  The last time a Knoxville driver ran me off the road, I had just managed, through many trials and tribulations, to claw my way across five lanes of traffic to the promised land of the left lane, which is where my exit was.  That's when a giant truck (about the size of Big Bertha the Behemoth) materialized out of thin air about half an inch from my rear bumper. 

I contemplated moving to the right lane so this guy could go about his day.  Then I realized there was a line of cars behind him that stretched into infinity.  If I got over, they'd never let me back in the left lane.  Yet despite the fact that the lane to the right was almost entirely empty, no one would pass me. 

Still, I refused to budge and miss my exit.  Besides, I was already doing five miles per hour over the speed limit.  Why should I change lanes so this guy could indulge in reckless endangerment?  The answer was because this guy was fucking crazy and was now determined to kill me

He finally swerved into the right lane, and for a brief moment I thought I had won the standoff.  Then, just as the trailer he was pulling broke even with my car, he swerved back into my lane, forcing me onto the shoulder.  (I'm beginning to realize why they have such nice, wide shoulders on the Interstate in Knoxville.)  That's when I decided I hate Knoxville. 

The worst thing about Knoxville, though, is the speed limit.  The Knoxville locals have reached an unspoken agreement that the speed limit is 80 miles per hour.  Knoxville city officials, however, have decided upon 55 miles per hour as a fair speed limit, and possibly in an effort to drive the point home, have placed speed limit signs every few feet.  I never know what to make of this.  Is there any conceivable way that speed limit is actually enforced?  Sometimes I wonder if it's some kind of joke the people of Knoxville play on out-of-town traffic.

Just to be on the safe side, I don't drive faster than 60 miles per hour in Knoxville.  Because of this, I always manage to infuriate the entire city whenever I pass through.  One of these days they're going to chase my car out of town with flaming torches and pitchforks.  But I can't afford to take any chances.  Getting a speeding ticket at this point in my life would be like that moment in Monopoly when you've been scraping by so successfully with your last $200, but suddenly you land on someone's hotel, and it's all over.  I don't know how that would pan out in real life.

Driving is fraught with many perils.  At any moment, you could be crushed, sideswiped, or smacked with a bill for several hundred dollars.  When you get your driver's license, they may as well present you with a medal for courage. 

Let's not make it any worse than it already is, okay, guys?


  1. Ah, I love this. The turn signal issue is one of my biggest pet peeves EVER.

  2. Ah, I figured out why they don't like you ... In the picture where the truck driver is growling at you I noticed that you are driving a British car with the steering wheel on the right side ... they obviously don't like foreigners.

  3. Oh NO! I have inadvertently revealed my secret British identity!

    That's okay, though. I still haven't let it slip that I'm secretly plotting to use my blog to take over the U.S. and put it back under British rule!


  4. Offer still stands to swap kids & cars and teach each other’s sons to drive, providing your car is delivered with a full tank of gas!!
    Driving lessons in Dublin