Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Stir Star Awards (Freeways)

“Freeways” around Houston aren’t really “free” anymore but they are supposed to be free of impediments and cross traffic that can lead to accidents and slow the flow of traffic to an inefficient pace. Here are some of my favorite stupid people tricks done on our freeways.

Going 45 mph. (or even going the speed limit)

Ya know, Slick, in some states if you drive at 45 mph the cops won’t bother giving you a ticket for impeding traffic. They don’t have to. The other drivers will simply kill you.

You want to go 45 and feel safer? Stay on the surface streets.

If you’re having car trouble, get the hell over to the far right lane and put on your hazard flashers – then get off the freeway and over to the repair shop ASAP.

When you’re going 45 and the big bad 18 wheeler is going 70, you’re going to be hit as if you backed into a wall at 25 mph. Lots of damage bro.

As for going 65 (or 55 in the damn construction zones) get real. Please observe the other drivers. NOBODY IS GOING THE SPEED LIMIT. Pick it up, homeboy. We all have to get to work.

Playing “Sheriff” in the fast lane.

Did you know that we have several dozen Special Enforcement Sheriffs scattered in among the citizenry of our fair city? Yep. These are every day folk that drive their car over into the freeway fast lane, set it at some speed, such as the speed limit, or some such nonsense and thereupon they enforce THEIR perception of propriety and the law by holding back a line of 20 cars that are trying to get from here to there in the shortest reasonable time.
These self-appointed sanctimonious mouth-breathers will just cruise along, happy as you please, reveling in the knowledge that they have kept some more careless heathen from going to hell a little sooner than later.

Get out of the way, Pudding Head, or somebody'll help you from the freeway to the glory road.

The idiots stopping at the bottom of an entrance ramp.

How … oh, how did ANYbody ever figure that it is right, correct, proper, safe, or even sane to haul their ass to a halt at the bottom of the acceleration lane, right where the entrance ramp merges into the freeway’s slow lane? They stop! Not a California rolling stop. I mean, they STOP!

I think most of these mental heavyweights have either been killed or arrested because I only see about one a year now. Just a few years back, all of us normal drivers were always on the alert for the ramp stoppers. We just KNEW that today was the day that another one of them was going to toss out the anchor just as we were getting up to merge speed, coming up behind them.

Slowing down to exit.

What? Do you think that because you’re coming up on YOUR exit and that you’re finished with YOUR commute that the rest of us don’t have to keep going to our destinations? How can these people (a majority of drivers) possibly think that it is O.K. to decelerate in the main lanes of traffic, as much as a ¼ mile before their exit ramp.

Exit ramp, a.k.a. Deceleration Ramp, stupid.

EVERY morning, at the northbound Sam Houston exit ramp to Tanner Rd., there is a slowing down and backup because these lemurs are dropping down to 50 mph or less in the right one or two lanes. STOP IT!

Not accelerating in the acceleration lane.

Horse feathers. The price of gasoline isn’t that high that you have to nurse your way up to speed at an acceleration rate slower than a Moped.

These on-ramps are the site of more trick driving than anywhere, I think. The clowns are out and the circus is beset with their antics.

People … hear me … the entrance ramps are an acceleration feature of the freeway. Your State of Texas Professional [chortle] Engineers have designed them so that the average under-powered rice burner can reasonably be up to freeway speed by the time that they get from one end of the ramp to the other. Don’t insult our State Engineers (that’s my job.) Get your butt up to speed by the time you try to cut me off as you merge.

Speed and depth perception challenged.

I suppose these people are more a source of entertainment, rather than a source of irritation or a hazard. But I should mention them here anyway.

Don’t you just love the cretin that you’ve watched for miles as he slowly creeps up to pass you, from the next lane over, and then waits until the very last minute as he comes up on a slower vehicle. Then, way way past the last possible second for the safe execution of a pass (to get in front of you) Mario Andretti steps on the gas and zooms up beside you, only to have to slam on the breaks behind the slow vehicle.

I see this happen more often than I see a clean pass. Who are these people? What is wrong with their sense of speed and their depth perception? I shouldn’t complain. I really do get a good laugh out of these particular Pudding Heads.

Leave that left turn blinker going … forever.

Yeah, I know that it’s a cliché, but these encounters can be fun if you try to guess what the driver looks like before you get up next to them. Or, if you have a passenger, you can make book on which way the blinky fool is going to really move, and when.

Going straight for the 2nd lane when getting on.

I actually love this about people. I’ll bet you didn’t ever notice that virtually 100% of the vehicles entering a multilane freeway will stay in the first lane only as long as they are forced to stay there (by traffic, etc.) Then, the will immediately move to the second lane in from where they entered. (Some may continue to move further and further to the left.)

I use this human foible to my advantage, every morning.

Normally I set my cruise control to exactly 72 mph, based on my GPS speed reading (accurate to within 1/10th kph.) Since the far left, fast lane, keeps speeding up and slowing down, I usually get all the way over to the rightmost lane and stay there. There’s almost nobody there, on the Sam Houston Toll Road.

Sometimes there might be a truck or something in that lane but when they come up towards an entrance ramp, they get over a lane or two, expecting merging cars to be running slowly. What actually happens is that, first, the truck moves over and then every one of the merging cars goes immediately to the 2nd lane or further. If everything is spaced out right, I have clear sailing and never have to switch off the cruise control. Happiness.

Cops pulling people over and impeding the traffic for 15 minutes during rush hour.

I’d say, “Those pigs,” but that wouldn’t be nice. The fact is that Constables (Texas pseudo cops) are allowed up on the freeway so that they can raise money for their politician bosses. They’ll find some dope doing something outrageously stupid – something that will stick in court no matter what. They then get to pull the clod over.

O.K., you have your victim, you have his plate, you have his driver’s license, you probably have his photo on your patrol car video. GET OFF THE DAMN FREEWAY!!!

A cop, with his flashing lights on, will instantly slow down traffic, resulting in a dizzyingly fast traffic backup.

Think (?) about it officer. You’re scared, walking/standing on the roadside with the traffic wizzing past you at 70; you’re really rolling the dice that nobody is going to crash into you or your car during the stop; and, there is nothing that you can do up on the freeway that you cannot do down on the feeder road. So, tell your victim to carefully exit at the next interchange and write him up in a nice safe frontage road location.

See … you’re safe and I’m happy.

Cops conducting a multi-hour “investigation” on the freeways.

Oh, this one sticks in my craw. The poor s.o.b. is dead, damn it, move his ass and all the twisted metal off the stinking freeway NOW!

I’d like to see the statistics that show that all of the photos and measuring and supervisor visits and interviews have EVER made a difference in a conviction or lawsuit. Get real. So many vehicles ran over all of the bits and pieces before you got there that any “evidence” was obliterated. The freakin’ dead guy doesn’t care. Supervisors … do your job and give your people the authority and responsibility to get the highway cleared expeditiously.

Come on. Tell me in a response to this post, what the real advantages are to keeping a roadway closed or restricted for hours and hours while an “investigation” is completed. Go ahead. Try.

Cell phone up, gas pedal up.

Here’s a new anthropological theory: Many Houston drivers have a tendon connecting their right foot to the hand with which they lift their cell phone to their ear. And this makes their bodies work like this …

Phone rings; stupnagel picks it up and raises it to his ear; as the hand raises, the foot is pulled up away from the gas pedal by the magic tendon. Works every time.

Put down the phone and drive you slugs or at least set your cruise control so you don’t get distracted off in your little phone world and drop your speed to a crawl.

Yes, once again, I've finished a rant. Do you think anybody will read this and change their behaviors? Me either.

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