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Driven to Distraction

by Stephen Lautens


June 9, 2000

Hey, you. Yeah, you!

The guy in the BMW with the latte and cell phone trying to pass me on the shoulder.
I'm talking to you.

You'd think that after spending the equivalent of the national debt of a small African nation on a car, you'd have set aside a couple hundred bucks for driving lessons.

Well, cruise on, chucklehead. I'm sure there are a number of people who will benefit from your organ donations. Especially the brain -- one owner, low mileage.

And I hate to break it to you, but your licence plate -- "BIG BOY" -- isn't fooling anyone.

Then there's the guy who just cut me off because he's driving a stick shift and doesn't have a free hand to signal turns. Everything he's doing with his hands is apparently more important than driving.

Still, that's an improvement over what I saw yesterday. The person driving beside me -- and I use "driving" in its loosest sense -- was leaning back in the driver's seat with both hands behind his head. You know, like he was having a nap. I shudder to think what he was using to turn the steering wheel.

I saw another guy with his stereo up so loud you could see the car roof bulge with every beat. The bass line loosened my fillings from two lanes over.

Don't get me wrong -- I have no problem with loud music. I'm not too old to appreciate Rob Zombie or Kid Rock, although I prefer the classics, like The Ramones.

My problem with this particular driver was -- I kid you not -- he had a drumstick in each hand. And I don't mean the chicken kind. As he drove down the highway, he enthusiastically beat his imaginary drums.

It would have been very entertaining, except for that possibility of crashing into the ditch thing.

Speaking of music, my friend Natalie used to keep her tape collection in the car on the floor of the passenger side. There's nothing wrong with that, except to find what she was looking for, she would keep one hand on the wheel and stick her head under the dash. And not just for a second. She'd stay down there until she found the tape she wanted. "Tell me if anything's coming," she'd tell her terrified passenger.

I quickly learned to say the radio was fine. Or just hum.

But coming up on my right is a salesman who's turned his car into an office. At 100 km/h, he's going through file folders on the passenger seat. I hope his 11 o'clock appointment is in heaven, although that's not where I suspect his kind of salesmen go.

Next, I'll direct your attention to the couple ahead of me. Every time he talks to her, he turns his head to face the passenger seat. That means he's not looking at the road. Hey, buddy, she's sitting right there beside you. She's a captive audience, although she may wish she wasn't. You don't have to look at her when you talk. Just because you can't see her doesn't mean she can't hear you, unless you're worried she'll throw herself from a moving car rather than listen to you.

Well, here's my exit. I'll be glad to get away from all that honking behind me.
Maybe I should stop writing these columns on my drive to work.


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