Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sun 7th Jan, 2007

Getting yourself in trouble

I shouldn't do it. It's not very nice, not particularly clever, and it probably leads to angst and hard feelings all round. I know that every time I do it I get that hot, tingling, blushing sensation as my body prepares to attack or run away, and while there's a certain power in that feeling it has absolutely no connection with level-headedness and rationality. Given that I'm usually doing it while driving, that's a bad thing. In a way, I'm breaking my central rule of do as I would be done by. And yet it has a seductive power all its own.

I'm talking about, of course, racer baiting.

We've all seen racers driving around. They own Mitsubishi Lancer EVOs, Subaru Liberty WRXes, imported Nissan Skylines, and similar: small cars with massive bonnet scoops, skirts, gigantic alloy wheels and racing decals. It also seems mandatory that they have a "For Sale" sign on the back, as if they've only just realised how expensive insurance and running costs are. They're the first off at the lights, even if the next set fifty metres away have traffic banked up behind them, and they swerve and dodge through the traffic as if they're carrying four people simultaneously having heart attacks. Well, with their driving skills, I certainly wouldn't blame their passengers from feeling like having a little medical emergency in order to get out of the car.

Normally, I try to let them past. I don't mind the occasional bit of irritating driving, such as synchronising with a van in the other lane, in order to catch one of these porridge-minded cretins and slow them down a bit. But my general rule is that the further away these accidents waiting to happen are from me, the better off I am. Just by being near me they make me nervous, and when I'm concentrating on watching out for their antics I'm not concentrating on the rest of the traffic. So I try to let them past and dismiss them from my mind.

Every once in a while, though, one of them stands out. Today, Kate's dad gave me a lift home from work and, just as we moved away from the lights, we had one of these morons change lanes with barely enough room between him, us and the car he was overtaking. It was a stupid act, made doubly stupid because he was rapidly accelerating away to a red light. We caught him up and ended up beside him at the lights, and that's when I couldn't resist a bit of racer baiting. I typically wave and look, a gesture which, while overtly friendly, says "remember me, that car you cut off? And how desperate you were to get ahead of us? Yep, here we are, safe and sound, and you haven't saved any time at all! Amazing, eh?"

The usual response at the first baiting is a not so friendly wave back, and this pea-brain didn't disappoint. Even better, he deliberately swerved in front of us in order to even more forcefully point out that his black Subaru Impreza WRX was far superior to our Toyota Yaris, all previous evidence of traffic navigability to the contrary. And, swerving through the traffic madly, off he went again. This would have been absolutely marvellous had we not again caught him up at the next traffic lights. Having studied the lights along Belconnen Way to a moderate degree, this was fairly predictable to me, so as we passed (turning left while he waited to go straight ahead), we waved again.

This time, of course, only the finger would suffice to show us his true IQ score. Er, I mean, his true driving ability. Er, I mean, his sheer rage at being denied his birth right, denied the chance to show us and the entire world what the entire Subaru off-road rally team what talen they've been ignoring all these years. Yeah, that must be it.

The problem is, of course, that afterward it takes me some time to come down from the adrenaline. Just writing this post and describing the sensations lifts my pulse, tightens my chest and makes my toes flex involuntarily. This, I tell myself, is stupid. Why do I do this to myself? And what have I done to another human being: made him even more likely to do himself and/or someone else an injury or material damage by making him concentrate less on the road and more on my tauntings. I don't feel proud of this. It's really rather childish.

I just have to give it up, though. And here I will admit I do have a large chip on my shoulder about my driving. I think I am better than average - I drive smoothly, save fuel and wear on the car, and drive comfortably within the limits of my ability. Of course, apparently 80% of drivers think they're above the median too, which is statistically impossible (a phenomenon apparently known as the Lake Wobegon effect). So presumably I'm about average, and may be a little better at some things and worse in others. Fair enough, criticism taken, less ego need at the steering wheel. When I see others doing the things that I don't thing I should do, that's when I get a little shirty; and when it's done by such stereotypical racerboys it begs to be mocked.

Must... give ... up... mockery...

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