winter driving – it takes all types, but none of us thinks so

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

Winter driving brings out the worst in many of us, including and especially yours truly.  Sunday, I was scaling one of Moline’s tremendous hills in the slippery, slidy snow.  There is a spot near the top where two lanes must merge into one; I checked my mirror carefully and saw someone coming up the hill.  He was way back there, so I signaled and carefully eased over into the lane, noting with dismay that he seemed to have done a rage-push of his accelerator as he saw me start to move.  As we reached the part of the hill that was no longer 4 lanes but now 2, he pulled out – into oncoming traffic! – to pass me. 

In good weather, I would roll my eyes, mutter, and tell God how sorry I am for being all judgy and clinging so hard to my “right” to my opinion.  In bad weather, I yelled, “YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!” as he passed me, and then I glared at him in his rearview mirror the rest of the way uphill as he gesticulated wildly and shot the laser glare in the same mirror.  It took me considerably longer to apologize to God for my attitude.  And to be honest, my stomach still clenches as I remember it.  This is not because “he had no right” but rather because I feel like he and other drivers like him endanger my life.  And I’m selfish enough not to want to die or be badly injured or even just suffer property damage and inconvenience because some dude can’t drive at a reasonable rate of speed, avoid rage-acceleration, and/or use the brakes. 

Winter gets long.  I don’t struggle as much about the cold and snow as many do – heck, I run year-round joyfully!  But the driving part of it wears down my ability to be gracious with other members of the human race…especially strangers I encounter for only mere seconds.  People who have had the dubious pleasure of riding in my car in winter may well have witnessed my angry diatribes as those with whom I share the road navigate their vehicles in ways that frighten me.  My thinking is that I can control MY OWN driving, but there is really no protection available to me if others come careening along and smash me off the road.  Powerlessness is always hard, and powerlessness on winter roads takes it up a notch to my “I can’t find a way to be nice about this” point. 

I have often wanted to blog about this, but I always sit on it.  My blog, after all, is not really for just flat-out ranting.  I’d like it to have more value than that.  Also, I am acutely aware that a lot of people that I like, respect, care about, love, and /or generally want to play nicely with drive the kind of vehicles used by those who seem to do 99% of the kind of driving that offends me – what I call “big ass trucks.”  I don’t want to be mean or rude to those people.  Don’t want them to think I am including them as targets of my rage.  Don’t want them to assume I am judging them, as I judge the folks who terrify me while I drive.  It’s not as simple as, “I don’t want to cause drama.”  While it is true that I detest drama, it is much more that I don’t want to be a jerk to friends – which makes me pause and notice that I also should not be a jerk to other passers-by in life, what with my touting the title “Christian” and all. 

So.  Here is my attempt at saying it nicely, without ranting or name-calling. 

Dear Drivers of All-Terrain Vehicles (see what I did there?  Starting with stopping using the pejorative “big ass trucks!”)

Yes, I am a cautious driver.  I am a speed-limit driver even in the best of weather (which appears to annoy quite a number of you, who ride my bumper so aggressively that I feel a primal fear of being flat-out knocked off the road before you whip around me.)  I promise you, I am not trying to slow you down.

I do reduce my speed for weather conditions.  I promise, I’m not trying to tick you off.  I’m moving at the fastest speed that I find reasonable. 

It terrifies me when you rush up behind me.  I have to lock my hands on the steering wheel, breathe deeply, and coach myself so as not to be run off into a ditch, when you get all up in my grill and then go fish-tailing around me at what feels like 3 times too fast for conditions, regardless of what you are driving. 

I can see that you feel very confident of your driving – that you see me as just another inferior driver who is in your way (if that’s not what you mean to communicate, I apologize – it just REALLY LOOKS LIKE THAT to me.)  I have no doubt of your confidence (you might be surprised to learn that I am not lacking in confidence – I am FINE about driving on bad roads, as long as I can do it at the speed that feels right to me and without other drivers being scary in near proximity to me.)  But I have watched a lot of people sail your type of vehicle by me wildly, only to land in a ditch somewhere a little further down the road.  If you like to play that way, it’s cool…except…see, if I happen to be in your way while you lose control…I feel like I might get hurt.  I don’t want to get hurt. 

It isn’t only in my car that I get frightened by you drivers who are so much more aggressive than me.  When I run, there are certain corners where I cannot cross the street, because y’all tend to come whipping around the corner, going too fast to be sure you won’t run over me accidentally.  When I ride my bike, some of you do both apparently unintentional and obviously very intentional things that make me feel like I might die under your wheels one day.  Some of you scream at me to get on the sidewalk – apparently you don’t know that is neither legal nor safe.  Once I was in a WalMart parking lot, sitting in my car, just waiting for a friend, when one of you came by and didn’t like where I was parked – so you screamed at me so hard the veins were all popping out everywhere and, since I was in Iowa, a concealed-carry state, I worried that a gun might be pulled out and I might be shot for my offense.

Your confidence in your driving may be well-placed.  It may!  However, I have now lived on planet earth long enough to know that often my confidence was misplaced.  How did I find this out?  When my “luck” ran out and I finally paid the price for overconfidence.  So, you see…your confidence, whether it is in your driving ability, or in the traction of your vehicle…it doesn’t comfort me.  I am praying for you that if you are just overconfident, your lesson will just be a temporary jangle on your nerves, and not result in the loss of your life or that of others.  And I’m trying to stay out of your way, meanwhile.

My plea is for peace.  In my angry moments, I want to ban you all from the road.  But it is no more true that “all” all-terrain drivers are jerks than it would be that “all” church folks are jerks and hypocrites.  Since I fight that stereotype, I don’t want to buy into a stereotype about you.  That is a very real battle for me, and I lose it all too often.  I am not proud of that.

I know you want to use the road.  I want to use it too.  There is room for both of us, even if I’m not driving as fast as you’d like me too. 

I know the speed limit is posted.  But in certain weather, the speed limit is too fast for conditions.  Where light or visibility are an issue, I turn on my hazard lights so that you won’t be surprised by me.  This does not seem to reduce your rage or your need to teach me the lesson that you think I should be driving.

I am not going to drive faster to make you happier.  Sorry.  It’s not an act of war.  It’s an attempt at survival.  I’m trying to give you a break.  It ain’t easy.  I know I irritate you, and giving me a break wouldn’t be easy for you, either.  I get that.

Still…would you mind trying?


Karen, who is not trying to start a flame war

  1. Laurie says:

    should be a guest writer for a newspaper – this one is loaded with good stuff…..ty

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