27 February 2010

Lesson #5: There will always be the jerk in the yellow car. Sometimes it will be me.

When my Fit was being fixed post-Christmas-Accident/Trauma, I got a rental car.  It was still getting fixed, so I got another one.  It went in and out of the shop while the shop fixed all the things they missed or didn't fix right the first time, so I kept trading it for new cars.  Then the dude at the rental shop told me that really, his predecessor should have just honestly assessed the car and totaled it.  Sigh.

But one 'fun' thing about the experience was that I got to drive a bunch of different vehicles.  One was a snazzy, two-door sports car, in bright, retina-melting yellow.  If I pretended (and ignored that it was the wrong make/model), it was like driving Bumblebee.  This was also fun, because I typically drive very practical cars, and a two-door sedan is (based on my daily needs) not so much.

Plus, I've always been a little leery of flashy cars.  Often the people behind the wheel of flashy cars are driving much faster than I am.  They're weaving in front of or behind my car, darting across three lanes of traffic, into the shoulder, then back again.  They're deciding at the last possible second that they really do need to take exit 21B, and everyone needs to get out of their way.  In the two-wheel version, these are the people that dart between cars at traffic lights, and obey red lights when it's convenient for them.  I hit my brakes and shake my fist at them.  They probably fuel their vehicles with a 93-octane blend of gasoline and ground-up puppies.

So I had my highly-visible sports car, and I had an objective: get from downtown Baltimore to northern Baltimore county, on a route I've never driven, at 6:00pm.  With a time limit, because the seminar started at 7.  And whoops, I got stuck at the lab, and ended up leaving at 6:25. Grrr.

Go, Bumblebee, go!

I've learned to be a safe(r) driver over the years, believe it or not.  I did fine driving in NYC, and in Boston, and usually I'm OK in the city.  But there are still some things that I prefer to avoid.  Driving new routes, where the streets are not always clearly marked (thanks Baltimore) at night, is one of them.  Places where lanes change - in that, some hours they're turn only, or inbound, and some hours they're not - are another thing that irritate me, mostly because I learned to drive in the suburbs, where streets stay exactly as they're meant to be and the signage is consistent. And I really don't like driving down MLK Blvd in the dark, at what's still rush hour.

Yes, I am aware I sound like an old woman.  Moving on.

There I am.  The lane that was through has suddenly become turn only, according to the light-up sign.  I really don't want to turn, it'll put me way out of my way.  So I look, see a space just big enough for Bumblebee, and scootch out.  Quickly.  There was no danger.

Of course, there was still a few horns.  Because it was rush hour.  And people were already angry.

And all of a sudden I felt self-conscious.  I was aware that I was driving like a jerk, and that people had seen it.  And because I was in this bright yellow car, I was easy to spot, and they could point, and say 'what a jerk', only with different words.  I know, because I've been the one doing the pointing and the saying.

I was not just an annoying rush hour driver.  I had become the jerk in the yellow car.

So really, this lesson was about perspective.  Despite any belief that people are good, sometimes people are jerks.  That's their choice.  Sometimes I'll be a jerk, because of something I say or how I act, maybe even without realizing it.  So I need to be patient, and hope that other people are patient with me when the time comes.  At the very least, I should pay attention to what I'm doing, to minimize the chances for jerk-ness.

And then scootch forward.  Go Bumblebee, go!

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