Monday morning. August 15, 2016.
Happened again. Driver of a pickup truck waiting behind me at a light decided he couldn’t wait two seconds for me to find the gas pedal when it changed and swung out into oncoming traffic and then back into the lane inches in front of me as I began to move forward so that I had to hit my brakes to avoid rear-ending him. He pulled this maneuver while leaning on his horn and giving me the finger as he blew past. Then he roared forward, getting a whole forty yards before he had to stop inches from the back bumper of another car, which, of course, he then passed the same way he’d passed me.
Now, I am a bit of a pokey driver, more so these days as I’m being extra careful not to jounce my back. But I’m not that much of a poke and it’s not just me this happens to it. I see it---hear it---all the time. Cars at the front of the line at a light or a stop sign hearing it from another car behind them whose driver thinks that if traffic isn’t moving the instant the light turns green he’s been personally affronted. And, although probably this is confirmation bias at work, it seems to be that the drivers who take it most personally and react in the most aggressive and reckless ways are driving pickups.
Usually brand new pickups that show no signs that they’re used for any real work. Trucks without tool lockers, trucks without racks for ladders, trucks with nothing in the beds being hauled, trucks without even trailer hitches. Trucks meant to be played with. They’re bright, shiny new toys. Full-scale Matchbox toys.
And it seems to me that drivers of pickups have replaced drivers of SUVs as the most obnoxious and menacing to traffic idiots on the road.
I’ve written about this, how it’s my private joke---not as in I keep it private, but as in I’m apparently the only one in the family who finds it funny, which is the case with a lot of my jokes---that every aggressively bad, impatient, and rude driver is a Trump supporter. Here’s what I wrote after another pickup cut me off in nearly the exact same way back in May:
I figure they drive like they’re voting, intending to force everyone else to get out of their way, and here was this guy---had to be a guy, right?---confirming it for me.
Trump voters are guys who think other people are on the road just to make their lives difficult and the only way to deal with them is lay on the horn, flip them the bird, and show them just who really owns the road.
The difference is that that pickup back in May had a TRUMP sticker on its gate and the one this morning didn’t. So I don’t know if he’s a Trump voter. I don’t know if many of the pick-up owners I’m complaining about are Trump voters. Since I’ve been keeping tabs, I’ve noticed that most of these trucks are devoid of decoration of any kind. I’ve seen plenty of older, more scuffed, beaten, and dinged pickups, more trucks that not only look like they’ve done work but are at work, their beds full, their companies’ names on the doors or on the gates, with TRUMP stickers or signs in the rear windows that are as good as TRUMP stickers---Hillary for Prison, that kind of thing---but not all of them are driving like idiots and, in fact, not all the working pickups are Trump trucks. Saw one the other day with a Bernie sticker. That one looked to me like it was a farm truck. Not unusual around here. We live in farm country. May have been the power of suggestion but I thought I saw bushels of vegetables in the back and a woman behind the wheel. She was driving responsibly. And, by the way, if signage signifies, Bernie big primary win in the district was predicted by the plethora of his bumper stickers and lawn signs. There were a still are very few Hillary stickers and signs. There are TRUMP stickers and signs but not as many as you might expect. But I’ve heard the Trump campaign’s being stingy with the lawn signs. If they could, I’m sure our local ’ lawns would sprout them like dandedlions. They take their cue from their alpha dog and think barking in your face is the same as being tough.
Another aside, almost all the TRUMP lawn signs around here are in front of relatively new and spacious suburban homes and prosperous-looking, privately-owned business usually some kind of contractor whose owners, I figure, can still think of themselves, with reason, as the blue-collar working stiffs and/or see themselves as future Trumps or thwarted, should-have-been-Trumps superstitiously voting for Trump as if it’s the same as voting themselves rich or, at least, richer.
And then there’s that boat.
So much for “economic anxiety”. But as far as that goes, I don’t believe that TRUMP stickers on actual working trucks is evidence of the increasingly discredited political press corps’ narrative that Trump is the candidate of the working class Joes and Janes. Owning a pickup truck, either a working one or a bright new shiny toy isn’t an indicator of your politics or your social class. Neither is bad driving. I’m sure I’ve been cut off, tailgated, and otherwise menaced on the road by Hillary voters, Bernie voters, Gary Johnson voters, and, possibly, Jill Stein voters as well as Trump voters. Uncle Merlin drives a pickup. I want a pickup. A sadly gone good friend of mine, a school teacher turned psychologist drove a pickup. She was no Republican, believe me. The reason stickers of any kind show up on more working trucks is that the owners of the shiny new toys don’t want to risk ruining the paint job.
No, what I think all these idiot drivers have in common isn’t their political affinities but simply personal histories of being chronically late for work.
That seems to me the likeliest explanation, that the reason they drive like they’re working out their anger is they’re anticipating being yelled at again by their boss and they have to get it out of their system on the road so they don’t blow up at work.
That’s the likeliest explanation. It’s not my preferred explanation.
My preferred explanation is that they’re all in a such a furious hurry because they’re trying to outrace DEATH.
This is my pet explanation for a lot of the craziness going on in the world these days. A critical mass of Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers have collectively come to the same realization.
They’re going to die.
And the thought infuriates them.
And that’s something else these drivers have in common. They’re mostly middle-aged and old men.
And I believe they’ve bought their pickups for the same reason other middle-aged and old men buy sports cars. To feel young again.
Driving big, powerful, fast machines makes them feel young and strong and reckless and adventurous. It makes them feel like they can still do the work they used to be able to do and play with the energy and abandon and joy they used to experience.
They climb behind the wheels of their F150s, 250s, 350s and suddenly they’re the kind of tough early middle-aged smart guy Denis Leary sounds like in the Ford ads, lean and fit again, with full heads of hair.
And I understand that.
I sympathize with that.
But my feeling about it is if that’s how you want to feel, strong, reckless, and adventurous then buy a goddamn motorcycle!
I saw one just the other day, an old man, not a middle-aged man, a guy in his sixties. Old and fat. He was stopped ahead of me at a light. A long light, so I had time to study him and he had time to look around him. He was on a Harley. Not stripped down but with few options. Just side lockers and classically wide handlebars. He wasn’t a low-rider but having to stretch out his arms to reach the grips gave him the iconic posture of a biker, at least from the shoulders out. He wore good boots and jeans, real jeans not Dad jeans, and, except for a pair of fingerless gloves, no leathers, not even a vest, just a worn and faded black t-shirt. His helmet was one of those little black pots so I got a good look at his white-goateed face as he looked around him, waiting for the light to change. And he looked something the drivers of those pickups never look.
He looked happy.
On the back of his t-shirt, in letters not quite as faded as the shirt itself, it said “Indianapolis Harley-Davidson”. Stupidly, I didn’t note his license plate but I like to think that he was actually from Indianapolis. I mean that he had just ridden here from there. I like to think he was on an adventure. That he’d ridden here just because it was where his bike took him. I like to think that from here he head who knows and who cares where, let’s just see where we end up next.
I like to think he’s travelling the country, going from town to town, staying in one place just long enough to get to know a few folks and help them out of trouble of some kind, and then...moving on.
I like to think that there went Bronson, sixty-odd going on seventy years old, still on his bike, still on the road, still on his adventure.
Still, in the all the ways it really matters for an old man, young and happy.
And I like to think that no driver of a toy pickup dares to cut him off at a light.