Renaissance Online Magazine Column

FEBRUARY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 2



DAVID DOUGLASS

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DAVID DOUGLASS is an independent publishing consultant residing in the small north Georgia town of Atlanta. He is also a freelance writer and has authored numerous articles and several books. David is a staff columnist for Renaissance Online Magazine.


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  Road Gauge

DAVID DOUGLASS

I don't particularly enjoy being cut off on the highway. Nevertheless, good sense -- not to mention the prospect of a lengthy vacation as a guest at one of our nation's finer correctional institutions -- tends to prevail in such situations, and I nobly resist the temptation to handily pepper the offender's rusted-out land yacht with a sawed off, double-barreled shot gun.

It almost goes without saying that American highways are about as safe as riding a unicycle directly into on-coming traffic on the autobahn. It stands to reason, after all. Our interstates, bi-ways, and super-highways are littered with the oddest assortment of characters to ever grace a multi-laned, overly congested asphalt transportation network.

We can't even billow our horns, demonstrate the nimble dexterity of our middle finger, or otherwise share our innermost feelings of angst and agitation with the selfless soul who just passed us on a double line and immediately slammed on his brakes right in front of us. How could we? Odds are, the guy is packing some serious heat underneath the mountain of empty beer cans; fried chicken buckets; and long outdated, but thoroughly dog-eared, issues of Soldier of Fortune magazine lying on his floorboard. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that the satisfaction derived from flipping off such an individual is worth earning that next notch on the barrel of his limited edition, authentic replica, gold-plated, special issue Dirty Harry .45.

I seem to recall that the Pope tools around in something resembling the unlikely, not to mention unnatural, offspring of a golf cart and a telephone booth. Apparently, the thing is bullet proof, and can reach speeds in excess of eighty-five miles per hour. It seems perfectly logical to me that every citizen in the United States should be issued one of these things at the government's expense. Not only would the vehicle provide protection against stray bullets and other randomly directed projectiles, it would tend to discourage all forms of unacceptable highway conduct due to the fact that almost no one is self confident enough to do anything stupid while standing fully exposed and upright in a telephone booth atop a golf cart.

I can't help but feel that those cleverly conceived, hydraulically enhanced, bouncing muscle cars could finally gain the long-overdue respect of all Americans by providing each of us with a viable defense against would-be road ragers. After all, how many road ragers can successfully target the driver of a car that is bouncing about with the verve and enthusiasm of a pogo stick on methamphetamines?

It seems that some super secret high-tech outfit in California is supposedly working on a device that is designed to automatically control the speed, direction, and location of our vehicles -- thereby heading off any possibility of collision, vehicle malfunction, and most certainly road rage. Perhaps. But if my suspicions are correct, most people will gravitate towards other forms of "uncontrolled" transportation if for no other reason than to return to the now well-conditioned habit of shouting disparaging epithets and tossing chunks of brick and other debris at one another. Let's face it, if you can't let other drivers know how stupid they are, or how much of a skilled driver you are, what's the point of even being on the highway in the first place?

Quite simply, we have lost that innocent sense of humor that once so pervaded the American psyche. I can vividly recall times in my youth when my brothers and I could make Jerry Lewis faces at passers-by without the least bit of fear that the recipient of our abuse would fire bomb our dad's Oldsmobuick station wagon with a poorly conceived, though nonetheless effective Molotov cocktail.

Americans have made an art of highway warfare, with the primary objective being "take no prisoners." In a country where the speed limit is understood as the lowest recommended speed, stop signs are interpreted as yield signs, and cutting someone off is not so much rude as it is "skillful maneuvering," something is undoubtedly wrong with the system.

Perhaps we should pass a law requiring all individuals charged with violations resulting from vehicular irresponsibility and road rage to drive idiotic looking vehicles. Nothing takes the steam out of an aggressive driver like forcing him to drive a lime green Yugo with neon-orange racing flames adorning the hood and fenders.

I suppose our society will be afflicted with the phenomenon of road rage as long as there are highways and automobiles to drive upon them. A point which reminds me of a telling bumper sticker I once saw on an urban freeway: "Keep on honking ... I'm reloading."

This is a crazy world we live in, folks. So buckle up, drive carefully, and if someone happens to offend you in traffic, for heaven's sake, transfer your aggression to a place where it can be far more constructive -- your tax return!

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