Chicago Sun-Times

The Cranky Commuter #4

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I'm a mild-mannered reporter -- like Clark Kent, but without the secret super powers.

I don't typically yell at people in traffic. I try very hard not to swear in the car. But there is one thing in traffic that makes the rage burble up like lava, makes me wish I carried a carton of eggs in the front seat, makes me wish unthinkable things on people I don't know -- and that is intersection blocking.

You've seen this. You're waiting to cross a major street. It's rush hour. You have the light. But you can't move, because a string of yahoos decided to move into the intersection and SIT THERE through your light because they can't move forward. You can't move around them.

You wonder -- what makes people do this? What awful crime was committed against them when they were children that makes them want to destroy the afternoons of innocent strangers? Did someone take their candy? Did the homecoming queen turn them down for the spring dance? They can see ahead of them. They know traffic is bad enough and slow enough that they can't clear the intersection. But they block it, from either sheer stupidity or sheer spite.

Mike Royko -- who was an even crankier Pole than I am -- once opined on this subject in a February 1990 column. As he sat in a blizzard, waiting for a goofy woman who was blocking the way, he thought about the human brain: "Einstein's equation: energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared, Edison searching the world for a filament that would light our homes and streets. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Popiel's Pocket Fisherman. But there sat this creature, blessed with a three-pound brain mass and those millions of cells. Yet she was incapable of a simple thought: 'If I put my foot on the gas and creep a few more yards, I'll stop and when the light changes those people on my left won't get past me.'" (My attempts to link to this column failed, but you can find it in the collection "For the Love of Mike.")

I suspect that conditions today are much worse than when Royko was driving. He saw one woman during a blizzard -- I can see four cars doing this at once on a sunny day at the intersection leading out of the Jewel east of Six Corners.

Tom Vanderbilt, the author of the book "Traffic," believes that the odds of encountering a jerk while driving are higher than ever, due to increased congestion and the fact that there are more jerks in the population -- judging from studies showing an increase in selfish behavior. As Vanderbilt explained it to me, "traffic is filled with people who think the roads belong to them -- it's 'MySpace' -- that being inside the car absolves them from any obligation to anyone else."

Maybe it's narcissism, maybe it's stupidity. Whatever it is, I will refrain from throwing eggs. But I will throw curses -- silent curses. May you inherit a hotel with a 100 rooms, and be found dead in every one. May your next car be a 1988 Ford Escort. May all the best pictures of your children appear on the "Wanted" posters at the police station. And may every person you encounter on the road drive exactly like you.

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Sometimes if you wait, turning traffic will fill all the holes in front of you and you get to wait some more.

In contrast, I define an "Iowa Traffic Jam" as 3 cars at a 4 way stop: "you go first", no, "you go first", no "you go first".

Ms. Wisniewski,

Human stupidity knows no depths when behind the wheel of a vehicle. Sure, it's probably worse here in Chicago but, overall, people fall to the lowest common denominator when driving.

They are the reason God gave us a middle finger and cars a horn.

I'd suggest you try the decaf, but I'm right there with you on this one. When people do this it's the gift that keeps on giving and snarls things up through 3 or 4 cycles of light changes. The killer is that when you do make eye contact, they act like this situation was UNAVOIDABLE!!! Being a jerk is almost always avoidable. I wish them a Renault "Le Car". The 100 room hotel thing is a bit too brutal. If you get the eggs for your front seat, you'll save on future anger management therapy. Go ahead. You owe it to yourself.

Regarding "Scratchy Security":

It's both pathetic and par for the course that our government can't even provide comfortable uniforms for members or the security operation so closely linked to the present administration. I fear TSA is organized so as to preclude anyone doing anything right.

It's also telling that the uniforms were outsourced - why give anyone at home the contract?

Joe Hanc

Maybe it's narcissism, maybe it's stupidity.
By Mary Wisniewskion January 8, 2009 5:16 PM

Ms. Wisniewski, maybe is NOT the issue. THEY ARE STUPIDLY NARCISSISTIC!

We are bless with a wonderful brain, but don't use it. Do I sometimes get a brain crap? Yes! Do I go brain dead? NO! It is the brain dead that are driving out here that are the problem!

A 1988 Ford Escort is too good for these numbskulls. Either a Ford Pinto, Yugo, Chevy Vega and other rolling death traps is better suited for them.

My spin on DWB is Driving Without Brains!!

Let's be real, do it seem at time some people are driving aimlessly with no sense of awareness?


I love those drivers when it comes time to merge and nobody wants to relent!!

I'm with you these people drive me nuts. Where are the police? They could collect a lot of ticket money.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on January 8, 2009 5:16 PM.

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