Thoughts from the Road, pt. 1

So I was driving in the suburbs today – yes, I live outside the city so you can call where I am “the suburbs,” but it’s Arlington.  Go a little further out and people drive like Virginians, rather than people who would prefer to live in DC but can’t stomach the taxes or public services.  Not for the first time, my mind drifted to a few basic things that would assist on the roads.  This is the first in a possibly-periodic series of suggestions for improving DC roads.

First, I’ve heard all kinds of suggestions for infringement on free speech recently — corporations shouldn’t be able to support political candidates with unlimited soft money donations; protesters at military funerals shouldn’t be allowed to get in mourners’ faces; even that if you try to understand the causes of terrorism, you’re a traitor supporting our enemies.  How about a limitation on “noise” that we can all get behind?  Let’s outlaw the sound of sirens in radio commercials.  Half a dozen times over the last year, some shithead offering to get drunk drivers off of their charges has come on the radio when a song ended announcing himself with a police siren, and I’ve damn near gone into a pole at the sudden sound of a siren in my ears.  Same goes for sounds of car accidents, helicopters, and children crying.  Don’t MESS with me when I’m driving, or I’ll drive to your radio station and stab you in your eyeballs with my rededicated radio attenae.

Another thing – shut up when you’re driving, unless you have legit hands-free.  I’ve driven back and forth to Michigan for as long as I’ve had a license, to go to school or visit family or pilgrimage to my family’s land.  The entire time, I’ve known that there’s a squad of state troopers in Pennsylvania that people call “the Wolf Pack.”  When they mark areas for speed limit enforcement, you KNOW that there will be cops sitting and waiting for you.  You observe those zones according to your intelligence level.  How about a “Squawk Box” pack in DC?  I’d like to see cars marked deliberately for pulling people over that talk on their phones or text while they’re driving.  It was somewhere around late 2004 when cell phone restrictions went into effect in DC, and a Colombian friend of mine named Ursula was pulled over and ticketed for reaching for the phone she’d dropped on the floor – she was furious, but I was ecstatic (don’t reach for things on the floor of your car while you’re in motion, braniac).  Enforcement of that law fell off almost immediately, and these days it seems like it isn’t even on the books anymore.  I miss more left turn arrows and get gridlocked by more people who aren’t paying attention due to cell phones than any other cause.  And they’re still yakking away, so they don’t notice.  I’d like to see them pulled over, ticketed, and the phones taken and ground under the wheels of traffic afterward.

Speaking of task forces, how about a gang of boys in blue to take down taxi drivers?  This isn’t an anti-immigrant thing and I know that taxis fulfill an important public need, but Lord, they’re terrible drivers sometimes.  And I’m not talking about the drivers that troll the right lane at 15 mph, looking for fares.  I was on my way out of the city the other day, coming home from Alison’s place, and a taxi pulled a U-turn in bumper-to-bumper traffic – from the right lane on southbound 14th to the right lane of northbound.  I understand that they’re a livery service looking for customers, but how is that okay?  It snarled traffic for at least three blocks because this dipshit couldn’t circle a block – there wasn’t even a fare trying to flag him down there, so maybe dispatch is the person who needs to be flogged.

Maybe we forget about tickets and go with egg guns.  This doesn’t have to be a cop squad — I’m thinking it could be more like neighborhood watch (or the Beastie Boys …).  We should have citizens that roll around looking for heathen on the road, and when they find them, they can shoot raw eggs at their cars.  Tailgating?  Refusing to allow mergers into your lane?  Push pedestrians?  Yolk’s on you.  An alternative would be mounted paintball guns.  Blast the idiots and drop a safer-driving pamphlet on the hood of their car.  Having neon paint pellets would be half inconvenience and half scarlet letter, and hopefully would shame people into doing the right thing.  You’re welcome to sign me up to spearhead this particular effort.  I’ve always wanted weapons mounted on my car anyway.

The roads in Washington DC are a maniac place.  My theory has always been that it’s because so few people are actually from here – people come from New York, Peoria, Portland, rural Texas, etc.  Everyone learns to drive their own provincial place and then comes to DC, but the roads here are crowded and poorly designed and heterogenous, and you can’t just do what you’ve always done.  It takes a little stepping up to your game to drive here (as in any city, lest you think I’m romanticizing the nation’s capital).

Additional simple fixes on the roads or gentle pointers from readers are welcome, and for certain I’m impatient enough with the roads that I’ll have more constructive criticism in the future.  There must be creative ways to take the roads back, and it’s a good idea to talk these ideas out so I don’t start damning the torpedos and just ramming people.

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