(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections and contributes a regular column.)
OK, people, listen up. A lot of you out there are still driving like idiots, and something occurred to me the other day about that. Most of the bad driving I see every day has one thing in common:
It's not cool.
That's right. It is very uncool to scare everybody else on the road with your bizarre behavior behind the wheel, whether you're actually trying to beat the rest of us to your destination or you are simply forgetting that your car is not the only one on the road.
I'm going to list a number of uncool driving habits here. Perhaps you will recognize yourself in some or all of them. I don't expect you to change, but it would be really neat if you would at least acknowledge, once and for all, that, as far as all the rest of us are concerned, your driving totally sucks.
Let's get to the specifics, shall we?
If you are one of those people who insists on zooming in and out of different lanes of traffic, you are what I consider to be the most uncool driver on the road. EVEN YOU must know that after whipping in and out of various lanes and scaring children and old people at every turn, you still get to the next traffic light at the same time the rest of us do.
That is so very uncool I can't find words strong enough to express what a joke it is that you try so hard for so little.
Not only are you willing to make an ass of yourself by cutting people off, endangering everybody on the road by squeezing into spots where there really isn't room for you and being an overall pain to the entire motoring public - you're not even accomplishing anything! You're still sitting there right next to all the rest of us whose lives you put in peril with every one of those idiotic maneuvers!
This is not cool, so wise up!
Here's another one: Cutting through parking lots at street corners to get in front of the three or four cars already waiting at the light is so very not cool. People who do this might as well have a big neon sign on the top of their car that says, 'Hey, look at me! I have no brains whatsoever, and I am perfectly willing to run over somebody to get around three or four cars!'
How about people who do all sorts of weird things - things they should have done before they got in the car - while they're driving? And I'm not just talking about the ones yapping on the phone, either - although I must say that the woman I saw on Barbur Boulevard last week, who ran up and over an island because she couldn't turn her SUV sharp enough with one hand because she was on the phone, has to be one of the MOST UNCOOL drivers I've seen in years.
And it was especially uncool, I thought, because she never, even for a second, stopped talking on the phone, even though she had to back up into the busy traffic and take another one-handed turn at getting off that island before she got out of everybody's way.
In addition to telephone talkers, you'll see people putting on makeup, eating sandwiches, reading newspapers and fiddling with the ka-jillion different buttons available on today's high-tech vehicles. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but all of this stuff that takes a driver's attention away from driving, is not cool.
Going fast in school zones and residential areas is not cool. Even when the school zone has one of those flashing yellow lights and it's not flashing, 35 or 40 is still too fast and still not cool.
Going slow in the left-hand lane is not cool. In fact, it's quite dumb. Try this in Europe some time, and you'll get your butt blown off the road. In France and Italy, you only get over in that lane to pass, and you quickly learn to get back out of that lane in a hurry.
Failing to get your entire vehicle out of the main lane of travel while attempting to make a left turn (even when there's a full left-turn lane provided) is disgustingly uncool. It tells the rest of us you either don't know how big your rear is or you don't care that you're impeding the flow. Both are equally uncool.
Following too close is not cool. I haven't read any studies or anything, but I'll bet this is one of the most common causes of accidents on the road. And rear-ending somebody when they stop before you thought they were going to is definitely not cool.
My wife would insist that this is one that I'm frequently guilty of myself, but there is a difference between 'being' close to somebody (in a parking lot, or at a stop light) and following too closely. Being too close may be obnoxious, but it's not completely uncool.