So here’s the thing: I drive like the sanest maniac around. Some might consider my driving tactics worrisome, but my mind is blazing like an octocore system solely devoted to the task of what, back in driver’s ed, they called the IPDE process. Identify, predict, decide, execute. That is all I’m doing, and my combination of rapid analysis and hair-trigger reflexes causes me to brazenly weave in and out of traffic at 10-15 miles per hour over the legal limit without fear for my personal safety or the safety of others.
I know what some of you are thinking. “That won’t get you any further in the long run. Slow and steady wins the race.” Fuck you! And fuck Aesop. Rush-hour lights are on timers. When you drive the same route day in and day out, you memorize the timers. So yes, it will get me further in the long run, because if I’m not blasting down the road at 55 miles per hour, a very long light will turn red before I barrel through the intersection.
But I use my powers of maniacal driving judiciously. I don’t go any more than five over the limit down residential streets, usually hanging at the speed limit because you never know when some half-retarded kid on a bike will speed past an intersection without clearing traffic. So then I become the guy who people tailgate because they’re fucking dicks who don’t care about the children and small animals who are either too stupid or too slow to get out of the way.
In fact, you could extrapolate that cautiousness to my overall driving technique: my primary goal is to get out of people’s way. The one thing I cannot fucking stand are people who will allow a massive string of traffic to stack up behind them as they roll casually down the street at five or ten under the speed limit. They don’t give a shit. Let’s say they’re looking for an address. You know what I do when I’m on a busy thoroughfare looking for address? I drive the speed limit, and if I roll right past my destination, I go around the fucking block. I don’t just slow down and fuck everyone up behind me because I need to make sure I don’t miss my stop. A few weeks ago, I was driving behind a motorcycle driven by a guy who clearly didn’t know how to drive his motorcycle. It took him forever to accelerate, and he kept hanging about five under the limit. My natural response to that bag of dickery is to tailgate. Some people respond to that, realizing they’re under the speed limit and adjusting; some people defiantly ignore it. This guy was one of those, and as he struggled to slow his motorcycle down to make a left turn—down the same street I needed to turn down—I was tempted to whip around him. But it wasn’t really safe to do that, so I just clung to his ass like a sweaty-palmed sophomore who managed to convince a senior to take him to the prom. So we both turn down the street, and he’s struggling to even make a fucking turn. I mean, I’m sure he wanted to score all these cool-badass points for driving a motorcycle, but the fucking guy was driving like a kid who just removed his training wheels. He should have been humiliated for driving his cool Harley like such a pussy, but when he finally made the fucking turn, he lurched off to the right to turn into a driveway of some workplace or another and called out, “Prick!” to me as I blasted past him. I’m the prick? Not the guy who drives a vehicle he doesn’t know how to operate so poorly, he can’t even manage to get it to the speed limit? How does that work? Fuck that guy. Fuck all of you people. Go back to driver’s ed or stay off the goddamn road.
A few years ago, I considered a gubernatorial run on the platform of traffic reform. My strategy: a three-tiered highway system in which one level is devoted to standard cars only; a second level would be for minivans, SUVs, and pickups; and the third level would be reserved for trucks. To ensure no intermingling of auto species, I would insist on placing bazooka-armed sheriff’s deputies every quarter-mile. If ever a vehicle sneaks onto the wrong road, slips under the speed limit, or makes any other maneuver I personally deem offensive, the deputies have tacit authority to destroy the vehicles on sight. I actually sort of wanted to develop a death ray that would neutralize the vehicle’s molecules, so as not to disrupt traffic, but a bazooka really gets the point across. Besides, it’s a tactic lifted from the great and powerful Saddam Hussein; once you sadistically torture and kill a few people, most everyone falls in line pretty quickly. That’s just good government.
I may be losing track of the point. Ah, yes, here it is: I drive like a maniac and break all manner of traffic laws when I have identified that it is safe for me to do so. If there’s a safety issue, I’ll just suffer in silence, tailgating the prick who won’t get off his fucking iPhone long enough to move his fat, SUV-driving ass out of the goddamn left lane. Fuck you people.
Ahem. So this morning, I’m taking my usual route to work. At the infamous intersection of Arlington Heights Road and Northwest Highway, Metra tracks cut a swath of traffic destruction at a diagonal. Cars and trucks stack up like cord wood while waiting for the train to load and unload at the downtown Arlington Heights station. Usually, I time it so perfectly that I’m near the front of the traffic swell and can blast off like a rocket as soon as the railroad crossing pikes raise. Other times, I’m slightly behind, so here’s my highly illegal but effective and 100% safe strategy: I slide into the protected left-hand turn lane, and I’m usually the third or fourth car in this case. Right as I pass the intersection, the signal goes from protected red to full-on green, and I cut over to continue straight down Arlington Heights Road, unimpeded. So long, suckers! (If the timing is off and/or cars are still turning from the left turn lane on the opposite side of the street, I go left like a law-abiding citizen and cut up a side street. Safety!)
This morning, either the assholes preventing me from going the illegal speed I desire made me fall behind my usual timing or the train was early; whatever the case, traffic was stacked up more than usual, well past Sigwalt. Now, there’s an easy way to get past this when a train is in the vicinity: slide into Sigwalt’s left turn lane, and just keep going straight, through the oncoming left turn lane, fitting snugly into the never-filled left turn lane onto Northwest Highway. It is literally impossible for any oncoming traffic to affect this grand plan, because the railroad crossing has prevented anyone from coming south down Arlington Heights Road. Plus, as you approach from the north, the street is uphill, giving an excellent view of traffic in both directions.
There is nothing unsafe about this maneuver, but it’s illegal. There’s a double yellow line, so when I did what I have absolutely no problem doing, a cop in the left lane took notice, slid in behind me, and flashed his lights as soon as traffic started moving again. I was so confident in the world not giving a shit about what I’d done, I pulled over to the shoulder after turning under the assumption he would breeze past me on his way to an actual crime. Instead, he stopped, lumbered out of the car, and demanded to see my license and proof of insurance.
I try to be nice to cops, even when they’re acting like raging cockasses, and this was no exception. The guy was clearly angry about something, and if it was really all about me sneaking into the left turn lane, then he has some rage-management issues that ought to be explored in a group setting. I politely tolerated his brazen dickishness, accepted the ticket with gentle good humor, and continued on my unmerry way.
But I have vowed to fight it. And he made the rookie mistake of noting the specific section of the state code I violated. I took the liberty of looking up that section and found what we in the business call “a comically vast interpretive loophole.” This loophole will be the crux of my defense, because it revolves around the notion of safety. I do not want the hollow victory of the officer not showing up to court. I want the privilege of swaying the judge and destroying the officer’s credibility. Because, as David Merrick allegedly said (and Daniel Plainview actually said), “It’s not enough for me to win. My enemies must lose.”
See you in court!
For Wednesday: “Hooray for Independence!” (7/3/03)—A chronicle of a thrilling lighting/deep focus exercise.
For Friday: “Slasher” (11/19/08)—An enthralling dissection of the slasher genre, using the British horror film Tormented and the remake Sorority Row as examples.