Americans do not understand many things – sex, beer, and driving especially come to mind, and this is sad because Americans can be the most intelligent and friendly of peoples. One must wonder about their system of education.
The two primary errors of the American driver are that they make their autos extensions of their homes and the decidedly erroneous belief that driving is an individual act.
To begin with the first, whenever I find myself driving with an American the first thing that always strikes me is how much of a disaster zone the vehicle in question is. American autos are full of needless items and distractions.
One’s autoavan should by all means have some of the luxuries of life to aid one in feeling both safe and comfortable but as soon as the items cease to have use to the actual driving process they should be eliminated.
Especially if one is a professional or even an active driver!
So I’d like to begin with the auto sitting in the driveway.
Go get your dustbin off the kerb. Place it by the driver’s side door.
Go get a few empty milk crates. Place them next to the dustbin.
START EMPTYING YOUR auto. If you don’t need it to drive then out it goes. Place trash in the dustbin, household items in a crate, and items you no longer need in a crate.
Get rid of empty or half empty beverage bottles and food tins. Clean out papers and packets. Toss the half eaten bisquit. Newsheets, magazines, and outdated papers. The single glove. That one football welly. And so on.
Put the dirty clothes in a crate. The extra three flashlights. The kid’s toys. The spare dog leash. The three rolls of paper towel. The overdue films for the library. All the spare maps. Seat cushions. What have you.
Any electronics that don’t belong in the auto. DVD players, MP3 players, video game units, spare headphones, the 150 extra CDs, and so on.
In fact, if it were my choice, I’d say empty the auto completely…and then put back only what you really need. I think Kelly is going to write about that one, so again I’ll give it a miss.
Our friend Spenser has already listed a good auto kit here and you can read that again if need be, I only want to rant about one item.
THE ONLY ELECTRONICS IN YOUR auto SHOULD BE THE VEHICLE’S INSTRUMENTATION AND A GOOD GPS.
The next item is this.
After sex, there is no single act that is more social than driving.
Driving requires that a bunch of sixes and sevens savages in artificial environments put on a thin veneer of civilization and pilot several thousand tonnes of steel about without bloody killing anyone. This is actually harder than it looks…especially when you add in that many of our savages are kip deprived, distracted, or simply have no grasp whatever of the bog standard physical laws of our shared universe.
Across the pond in America this is done through signage and a series of informal hand gestures…many of the later too often cheeky.
Americans seem to have lost the flair for interpersonal communication.
One of my favorite bumper stickers here says “ Forget world peace. Visualize using your turn signals.”
In my travels here on the eastern seaboard of the previously colonial coast, I’ve seen all sorts of strange behaviors.
- I’ve seen people come to a dead stop in the roadway and make a turn and THEN signal.
- I’ve seen blokes signal four or five turns before the exit they actual meant
- I’ve seen people signal the wrong direction
- I’ve seen people drive miles with their blinkers on
- and the American favorite – no bloody signal at all
And forget hand signals – I’ve never seen an Yank motorbiker or cyclist use the hand gestures I had to learn in order to get my license here.
Another peeve of mine is the yield signs or amber lights. yanks don’t have any clue at all what the dickey bird “yield” actually means. Here an amber light seems to mean “go faster”!
People also seem to be bleeding seriously flummoxed about roundabouts and four way crossings here. It’s no wonder there are so many accidents and road anger incidents but since one of my colleagues is going to mention signage and what it means, I’ll give that a miss here and simply stick to manners.
So, dear Yanks, a few thoughts.
- You are not alone on the road. Pay attention to signs and to hand gestures.
- Your windscreen is transparent. We can all see you singing along – which is grand, but please don’t pick your conk, pick your teeth, shave, comb, groom, or scratch your wedding tackle at the lights.
- Also please don’t text, make a ring up, read a map, programme a GPS, cop a bloody picture, shave, do your face, or read your TPS forms while driving.
- Construction signs, road signage, and lights all have meanings. READ em and do as they say. If I m in the right lane and have been for miles and you ignore the signs and race up to me hoping to wedge you way in I m going to suddenly go blind and leave your cheeky arse stuck. Smashing luck in getting in behind me.
- Bike lanes have meanings. Cyclists are smaller, lighter, and more vulnerable. Please show some courtesy in not trying to kill them during their daily commute.
- Headlights can and should be dipped if you are near another car’s bonnet or boot.
- LEARN THE RULES OF THE ROAD. Don’t drive through amber lights and don’t pause to compose symphonies at a four way crossing. Obey traffic signs and use the appropriate lanes. If you miss a turn DO NOT cross three lanes of traffic without signaling and drive over the barrier lines or barriers. Go up to the next legal driveway or crossing and turn around.
- Try to remember that you are not immortal…do not cut other people off, do not give others the fingers, and remember that if you cut off a lorry, you will probably get smashed as it takes those beggers 4 TIMES AS LONG to slow or stop as it takes you.
- Give smaller vehicles especially motorbikes, mopeds, and cyclists extra room.
- And last but not least STOP BLOODY TAILGATING. Especially at red lights and stop signs. Stick shift cars roll backwards and are slower to speed up. Signal lights change. Motorcyclists require extra length to maintain speeds and are not automatics; and cargos and loads can shift. Not to mention that most of you with trailers, boats, or other tow behinds have no idea how much mass you are carrying, where your rear bumpers are, or how much extra time you might need to stop.
All that said, I’ll now surrender the floor to the next chappie.